By Andre Cheuk
Photos: Miguel Jette
Women’s qualification round opened with last year’s winner Anna Stohr (AUT), Shauna Coxsey(UK), and Juliane Wurm(Ger), all winners of World Cup this season. To everyone’s surprise the overnight leader came not from this trio, but from darkhorse Sol Sa of Korea. Although with the top 11 women all completing the full 5 problems of the opening round, it is still anybody’s game at this point.
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Celeste Wall of Vancouver was top Canadian in 21st place. Her result is made all the more impressive with the fact that this is her first World Cup, and Wall has only been training for the last 6 months after a 5 year layoff due to injuries. Despite narrowly missing the cut to proceed to the semi-final, Wall spoke enthusiastically after the round about her World Cup experience, “I don’t think it gets better than doing your first World Cup on your home turf, surrounded by all the people that support you, and are stoke to see you back climbing.”
Following closely behind Wall are current national champion Elise Sethna in 21st place, and emerging talent Beth Vince in 22nd, who is also competing in her first World Cup, all three ended the day with one completion each. Recapping the day, Sethna was sanguine about her performance, ”overall I felt strong, I just made a few mistakes in terms of sequencing, which cost me a lot of energy, so that was a little frustrating… but I am going to learn from my mistakes and look forward to Vail.”
It was a tough day for Canadian women, getting shut out of the semis. Understandably so, given the team was lacking veterans Vikki and Stacy Weldon. But encouraging debut performances from Wall, Vince and others like Rebecca Frangos and Alyssa Weber, shows the Canadian team have a new pool of talent that given a little time and experience, has the potential to be competitive within the next few years. As veteran National team member points out, “the new (World Cup) style is being integrated into competitions at the National, even regional level and local level,” giving competitors more chances to gain experience before going on to the world stage.
With so many of the top women in a virtual tie, the route setters will be sure to turn the difficulty level up for the semifinals. With proven winners Stohr, Coxsey and Wurm; overnight leader Sa, the always consistent Akiyo Noguchi of Japan, the return of Charlotte Durif of France, plus American duo Alex Puccio and Angie Payne all fighting for one of six berths in the final round, semifinal promises to be a thrilling and spectacular show.