Just 4 days after the Log Dragomer WC round and the athletes were on the move again; this time the destination was Innsbruck, a town steeped in history and surrounded by the snowy Nordkette Mountains.
As settings go this is perfect for an international bouldering competition; Austria is famous for its passion and love for climbing and with hometown athletes such as Anna Stöhr, Killian Fischuber and Jakob Schubert to cheer on there was sure to be a ruckus crowd and good buzz about the place.
This time I was travelling with the GB team to lend a bit of moral support as well as acting as taxi driver, bag carrier and general dog's body! Arriving on Thursday afternoon we wandered down to the venue to check out the wall and stretch our legs after the flight and commute from Munich airport. The wall is the same as was used in Kitzbuhel and had been assembled in a large granite cobbled square right by the river Inns. Even on the Thursday night the buzz in and around the venue was electric; music was blaring and a junior competition was taking place. The wall looked excellent and a huge round tent structure had been set up to shelter the crowd from rain and act as a back drop for the light show that was planned to accompany the finals on the Saturday evening.
There was one slight problem; with rain forecast at some point the next day the section of wall that would have the athletes first climb on was un-sheltered!! Would this prove costly to the organisers?! Only tomorrow's weather gods could know the answer to that!
We sat down at a restaurant overlooking the icy blue glacial melt of the Inns and had some tea, or dinner depending on where you are from.
Upon awakening the next day a tumultuous grey sky enveloped Innsbruck and the humidity in the air meant the question everyone was asking was not 'if' but 'when' will the rain come and what will happen 'when' it does arrive.
The men's qualifiers got under way and all was going smoothly until the 20th man in each group (because of the number of men and in fact women entering the competition there was to be two groups in both qualifiers with the top 10 from each groupgoing through to the semi-finals) was due to come out. The luck of the organisers finally gave way and the rain started to fall, and continued to fall, meaning bloc one was put on hold and the men stopped coming out of isolation. About an hour later the rain had stopped and bloc one was deemed dry enough to climb, let the competition commence! However this didn't last and rain again poured down; the organisers decided to scrap bloc one and so we were down to a four bloc qualifying round. Any athlete who had already been on it would have the climb discarded from their score. This worked in the favour of some athletes and hindered others. It actually helped GB climber Ned Feehally as he jumped from 11th (just outside qualifying) to 7th and well into the semi-finals! Also worth noting is that Jan Hojer went from 13th to joint 10th and so scraping into semis by the skin of his teeth!
The ladies qualifiers later that day were reduced down to 4 boulders for each group meaning that there was even less room for error. The boulders were hard and in group A just flashing one of the problems put you through to semi-finals. All the normal athletes seemed to be performing and it was nice to see Juliane Wurm from Germany back on form after not making the semis last weekend in Log Dragomer. Shauna and Mina made it through for the GB girls, meaning we would have three athletes to cheer on in the semis.
A new day and the sun was shining with not a rain cloud insight. The semis were going to be a hot one!
Men's semis started with a slab that saw off pretty much everyone except the top few from yesterday's qualifiers. The really interesting climb of the four was bloc number three; a double dyno to a pair of warm, sweaty egg shaped slopers lead to an even worse slope and then the top hold. Of the few that stuck the dyno no one was getting anywhere near the last move; the sloper was simply too bad to use in this heat, cue Dimtrii Sharafutdinov. After sticking the dyno he tried to toil with the eggy slope but to no avail, instead he took his right middle finger and stuck it in the bolt hold, crimped it up and proceeded to pull through to the top hold, with a foot slip for good measure. The crowd went wild; others had tried the mono and could get nowhere. Hats off to Dimtrii! After the competition I was shown the hold and I would say the bolt hole went in no further than 6mm! What a legend, Wolfgang would be proud!
The women's semis were a slightly different affair with the first two climbs being flashed from the beginning and the last two hardly getting climbed. Once again Anna Stöhr was the stand out performer, completing all four blocs; joining her in the finals would be Juliane Wurm, Melissa Le Neve and three Japanese girls! In Munich in 2011 Russia took a clean sweep of the men's podium, could Japan do that here in the ladies?!
Mina was very close to making finals, her hand ripping on the penultimate move of bloc four twice leaving her in 9th position, Shauna finished in 10th and Ned in 19th.
So to the finals and two hours before they were due to start and the venue was full to bursting, illustrating the difference between climbing in Austria and most other countries. The Austrians had Killian and Anna to cheer on; the climbing golden couple really are celebrities in Austria as much as your Wayne Rooney's and Lewis Hamilton's here in the UK.
The climbs looked brilliant-with large colourful volumes filling the walls again, this definitely is the flavour of choice for the route setters in the 2013 bouldering World Cups.
The presentations can be summed up as an incredible amount of noise and support for all athletes especially Anna and Killian. So let's get down to business; the final was a great show piece of dynamic power and athleticism with both the men's and women's coming down to problem three. Only two athletes of the six men managed to do their problem three; for the men Jan Hojer came out and pathed up the problem on his flash attempt, this left the crowd thinking that the route setters had set another bloc that was too easy but this was not to be the case. Next up Dimtrii managed to figure out the right beta and get to the top in three attempts and that's where the tops stopped. No one else managed to get to grips with the move to the bonus. If Jan could hold his nerve and do the last problem he would win.
Juliane and Anna were the only two girls to do their third climb meaning that silver and gold would be between those two. If Juliane could flash the last climb she would win!
Moving onto the fourth climb and the two German athletes were in the driving seat but would need to do the last climb in few attempts. Jan delivered in style; a slip on the first move was quickly followed by a display of brutal strength and power securing him his first win! Note to route setters, problem four in the finals should always have a finishing jug for acts of utter euphoria! Upon matching the last volume Jan looked trapped, he wanted to celebrate with numerous one arm pull ups and waving to the crowd but the pesky volume just wasn't made for that. He would have to wait for champagne on the podium.
Juliane came out and followed suit on the last problem pipping Anna at the post by one attempt. Again she was ecstatic! Juliane has been in a number of finals and made the podium before but this was her first gold.
What a night for the German team! On the podium both athletes were close to tears and it was obvious how much this meant to them. Seeing them both win was a great moment and it covered me in goose bumps to see their absolute satisfaction.
The competition definitely had a few organisational issues but on the whole it was an absolutely fabulous event and weekend. A good situation, great route setting, and an enthusiastic crowd made for a spectacular event; what's more the pizza and ice cream aren't half bad in Innsbruck!
It's time for that blunder and wonder moment again.
This week's blunder goes to the organisers for not putting a roof above problem one of the qualifiers, making for a difficult qualifying day for the athletes.
The wonder has to go to Dimtrii for his mono antics on bloc three in the semi-finals; this was one of the greatest feats of strength I have ever seen!
Final Results: Team GB Results:
1st: Jan Hojer and Juliane Wurm 9th Mina Leslie-Wujastyk.
2nd: Dimtrii Sharafutdinov and Anna Stöhr. 10th Shauna Coxsey
3rd: Killian Fischuber and Akiyo Noguchi. 19th Ned Feehally
4th: Sean McColl and Melissa Le Neve. 23rd James Garden
5th: Jorg Verhoeven and Momoka Oda. 26th Leah Crane
6th: Guillaume Glairon-Mondet and Aya Onoe. 27th Jon Partridge.
Here is a video of the Competition:
David Mason is UKC's World Cup Reporter, feeling passionate about getting the results of both Team GB and other participants heard in the UK to boost competition climbing's profile.
David is no slouch on the bouldering front either; with many hard boulder problems up to Font 8B and a flash ascent of Simba's Pride (E8) to his name.
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