IFSC World Cup Brixen 2023
The Boulder World Cup event in Brixen, Italy, followed on just one week after the Prague World Cup. As with Prague, there were a number of top competitors absent, as they took strategic rest periods and/or trained for the lead events and the World Championships in August. The women's field was particularly depleted, with frequent finalists Janja Garnbret (SLO), Oriane Bertoune (FRA), Miho Nonaka (JPN) and Brooke Raboutou (USA) all opting to skip the event, despite three of those athletes being in top contention for this year's overall title. Clearly, the World Champs are a more cherished prize.
With Futaba Ito (JPN) also bombing out in the qualifying round, perhaps showing that rest was a sensible strategy after all, it was one way traffic for Natalia Grossman (USA). Grossman claimed her second victory of the year and gave herself a slim lead over the others in the race for the overall title, with one round left. Her four tops put her comfortably ahead of the other finalists, with Chaeyun Seo (KOR), Stasa Gejo (SER) and Ayala Kerem (ISR) all finishing with three tops and four zones. Number of attempts separated them, with Seo second and Gejo third. A note also for Oceania Mackenzie, New Zealand born but representing Australia, who finished fifth, while Johanna Farber (AUT) was sixth, giving a final where six countries were represented for just the second time this season.
The men's field wasn't as depleted, with Adam Ondra (CZE) competing again and team Japan looking as strong as ever. Though series leader Mejdi Schalck (FRA) was again absent. The semifinal was fascinating viewing as Colin Duffy (USA) and Yannick Flohe (GER) made the early running. Adam Ondra managed no tops and just two zones, quite the comedown from his silver medal heroics in Prague. Duffy was eventually knocked down into seventh place by the very last semifinalist making a top on the last problem. This left four Japanese (Tomoa Narasaki, Meichi Narasaki, Yoshiyuki Ogata and Sorato Anraku), a Korean (Prague winner Dohyun Lee) and Toby Roberts (GBR) as the finalists. Tomoa Narasaki looked out of sorts in the final and he generally struggled to grip slopers with his usual tack, finishing sixth with just one top and two zones. Place-getters 2–5 all finished with two tops, Dohyun Lee claimed the silver with just three attempts for his tops, while Yoshiyuki Ogata snuck ahead of Meichi Narasaki to take bronze after both were locked together on five attempts for their tops and separated only by attempts to zone. In probably the most dramatic finish for the men this year, Toby Roberts claimed his first World Cup victory, sealed in the final seconds of his last attempt on the last boulder. Climbing last after a strong semi, he was sitting in fourth place before his attempts on M4, with tops from Lee, Ogata and Narasaki putting them ahead. Still, a top in unlimited attempts would put Roberts into first, after he gained an extra top in the first three problems. However, he struggled with a press move high on the problem that the others had made look simple, falling there several times and burning down the clock. With twenty seconds left, he found an alternative method that involved a 'not safe for squeamish viewers' gaston and close dropknee combination that gained him the top and an ecstatic celebration.
With just one boulder World Cup left for the season, this weekend in nearby Innsbruck, Austria, the men's overall race remains close. Tomoa Narasaki's consistent results—he has finished no lower than 10th all season—give him a slight lead over Lee, Schalck, Anraku and Roberts. The Innsbruck event should make for good viewing.
For an insight into Tomoa Narasaki's training, check out this video.