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Ties and Upsets: Villars Lead and Speed World Cup

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Nine ties, seven Japanese athletes and two brothers— all in the final round of the first 2019 Lead World Cup in Villars, Switzerland. 

421 athletes competed this past weekend, July 4 to 6, in the Speed and Lead Villars competitions. From the U.S., five female and male representatives were present. Brooke Raboutou and Jesse Grupper were the only Americans to make semifinals, both in lead. Raboutou finished in 20th and Grupper in 22nd.

For the women, the lead semifinal proved tough. Janja Garnbret was the only athlete to top, without a chalk bag no less, again demonstrating the women’s competition is merely for second place. Garnbret was the overall winner for the 2019 Bouldering season and was the first woman in history to have a clean season sweep. 

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Aside from Garnbret, the other female finalists included two additional Slovenian athletes, Lucka Rakovec and Mia Krampl, as well as three Japanese athletes, Ai Mori, Akiyo Noguchi and Natsuki Tanii. Chaehyun Seo, from Korea, and Julia Chanourdie, from France, claimed the other finalist spots. 

Noguchi, who placed second overall for the 2019 Bouldering season, was the oldest and most experienced finalist at age 30. Conversely, Seo, Mori and Tanii, all age 15, made this one of the youngest finals in history. For Tanii and Seo, Villars was their first senior IFSC World Cup. 

Janja Garnbret was the only athlete to top the semi-final route, without a chalk bag no less, again demonstrating the women’s competition is merely for second place. She was also the only athlete to make it past the bottleneck in the final round. Photo: Daniel Gajda

The women’s finals round proved lackluster. It was almost an eight-way tie. All competitors fell at the same move with the score 35+ with the exception of Tanii and Garnbret. Tanii was not awarded the plus because she was attempting the move in a different way to compensate for her smaller height. Garnbret was the only athlete to secure a hold past the others’ high point, however; the excitement was short-lived as she fell one move later, to earn the score 36+. 

On the men’s side, last year’s first and second Overall Lead winners, Jakob Schubert (AUT) and Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA), qualified for semifinals but fell short of the final’s cut. Instead, four Japanese athletes qualified for finals, including both Narasaki brothers, Tomoa and Meichi, as well as Yuki Hada and Kokoro Fujii. The other finalists were Domen Skofic (SLO), Sascha Lehmann (SUI), YuFei Pan (CHN) and Alex Megos (GER).

While the women’s final was too hard, the men’s was too easy. The podium results were determined by count-backs to semifinals after three men topped the route. Lehmann, the crowd favorite, took gold, while Pan and Megos took second and third, respectively. Skofic and Meichi Narasaki both fell dynoing to the finish hold. 

Sascha Lehmann celebrates his first World Cup victory. Photo: Daniel Gajda

The highlights video and complete results can be found below. 

The fourth 2019 Speed World Cup was on Thursday and Friday, June 4 to 5. Miho Nonaka, who skipped the first three Bouldering World Cups due to a shoulder injury and was ranked first in 2018 Overall Bouldering, became the first Japanese climber to make speed finals with the time 8.57. Up until a few years ago, there were no speed walls in Japan. After Sport Climbing was included in the Olympics in a Combined format, the Japanese Team made serious steps to train all three disciplines. Nonaka is the first non-speed-specialist to make a speed climbing final. She finished the competition in tenth with a time of 8.43. 

YiLing Song jumps to stop the buzzer. Photo: Eddie Fowke

YiLing Song (CHN) was vying for her third gold medal while last year’s Overall Speed winner Anouck Jaubert (FRA) looked to win her first gold for 2019. The two athletes ended the competition in a close race, with Song in the lead up until the very end when she slipped and gave Jaubert her opportunity for gold. Song and Jaubert are now tied in the 2019 Overall ranking. 

On the men’s side, it appeared that Dmitrii Timofeev (RUS), the winner of the Wujiang Speed World Cup in May, was the climber to beat. Timofeev fell in the final round against his Russian compatriot Aleksandr Shikov, giving Shikov the gold. In the small final for bronze, Bassa Mawem (FRA) was the crowd favorite against Jan Kriz (CZE). Like Timofeev, Mawem fell and effectively gave bronze to Kriz. Mawem is currently ranked first for the 2019 season, but Timofeev is close behind. The next two Speed World Cups will determine the Overall winner.

The videos and complete results can be found below. 

The next Speed and Lead World Cup is this coming weekend, July 11 to 13, in Chamonix, France. Ten more Americans are signed up to compete. The lead semifinal and final rounds as well as the speed final rounds will be live-streamed. Stay tuned!

Feature Image: Daniel Gajda

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