IFSC World Cup Prague
The IFSC World Cup series paid a visit to Prague for the first time over the weekend. Local fans were treated to an outstanding event, with some fantastic bouldering on display, topped off by hometown hero Adam Ondra taking part in a bouldering World Cup for the first time this season.
Despite reports of intense training, after the layoff from competition climbing Ondra (CZ) looked in danger of not making the final, with just two tops in the semifinal round. However, his result looked better and better as the round wore on, with only two climbers—Dohyun Lee (KOR) and Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)—bettering his tops tally with three. The remainder of the finalists all made it through with only two, only Sorato Anraku (JPN) made two tops and missed the final, finishing with one less zone than Ondra. New father and series leader Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) failed to proceed from the semi. He managed just one top (in 15 attempts) and remarkably needed 20 attempts for his four zones, showing what a tricky round it was.
Unlike the semi, the problems in the final were undercooked (route setter Cody Grodski explaining that the temperature difference between the setting time and the actual final was so great that the ability to hold slopers changed dramatically). Problem four was flashed by five of the finalists with a beta-breaking heel sequence, and this undermined the tension of the finish. Korea's Dohyun Lee was ahead after problem three, with three tops in just four attempts, so when the multiple flashes of problem four played out, he couldn't be caught. This was Lee's first victory on the circuit and great to see someone with a lot of talent reach their potential. Ondra finished second in what was a very popular result with the crowd, he managed four tops in the final, but had 13 attempts versus Lee's five. Mejdi Schalck (FR) and Yoshiyuki Oagata both finished with three tops and four zones, but Schalck's three flashes for his tops gave him the final spot on the podium.
The women's final was a much better spectacle, made interesting by the return of competition queen Janja Garnbret (SLO). After missing the first part of the season with a broken big toe, Garnbret looked back to her best in the preliminary rounds, qualifying in first place into the final as the only climber with four tops in the semi. Oriane Bertone (FRA) scraped into the final with just two tops, all the other finalists bar Garnbret had three. The remaining semifinalists all trailed behind with the next eight climbers managing just one top in what was clearly a tough round. With regular finalists from the USA Natalia Grossman and Brooke Raboutou staying home and skipping this event in what is the start of a busy ten-week block of competitions with World Cups and the World Championships, Bertone was perhaps lucky to make it through into the top six, or maybe she just managed her resources expertly.
Whatever had happened in previous rounds, the 18 year-old frenchwoman was firing in the final, after a slight false start on problem one but getting a top there on the second attempt, she flashed problems two and three with style and her trademark fearless approach. Janja Garnbret flashed the first problem, but couldn't find a top on problem two. Her trademark no-hesitation approach was missing on the final launch from a smeary position on slabby volumes, possibly a lingering effect of her toe injury. Garnbret again looked slightly less focused on problem three, twice running in on the wrong angle for the running start problem and wasting attempts. She eventually topped this problem with ease, but was now so far behind on attempts that even a flash of the final boulder would not be enough to overtake Bertone, should she fail to top it. Bertone appeared to know that she needed only a flash to zone to secure victory on problem four and did so with style, climbing foot-first through what appeared to be a fingery campus traverse. While she didn't make the top, once she knew she had victory—her first in a World Cup—the tears started to flow and waving to the jubilant crowd replaced any further serious attempts on the problem. The following four finalists all failed to unlock the problem, though Miho Nonaka (JPN) came very close on her flash go, where a top would have secured her a podium finish. There was a cherry on top for the crowd though, as Janja Garnbret climbed last and imperiously campused her way through the powerful problem, sealing second place and again demonstrating that if she eliminates errors from her round, she is the climber to beat. Third place went to Flavy Cohaut (FRA) in her first final. She climbed first in the semi round after qualifying in 20th and had the route setters squirming early on as she made light work of the semifinal problems, topping three and remaining at the top of the leaderboard right until top qualifiers Garnbret and Futaba Ito (JPN) overtook her. In the final, she continued her strong form and looks to be peaking at the right time to make this a breakout season.
Bertone, with her first win and successive silvers in the previous two rounds now sits on top of the overall standings. Although, the women's race remains unusually wide open, with four different winners in four different competitions so far this year.