The IFSC World Cup Toronto wrapped up on Sunday evening with the Austrian couple Anna Stohr and Killian Fischuber sweeping the top step of the podium, putting an exclamation mark on their consistently strong showing throughout the weekend. Though neither Stohr nor Fischuber stood atop the standings until the very end, when it counted, both were always within striking distance of the top step in the first two rounds.
In the process, Stohr vaulted past Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi, who finished second and Alex Puccio of the US rounded out the women’s podium. While Fischuber narrowly edged out Jorg Verhoeven of the Netherland into second place, Fischuber’s fellow Austrian Jacob Schubert finished third.
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With this victory, her fifth World Cup win in six starts this season, Stohr also clinched the overall title. The only blemish came in Innsbruck, where she finished second, putting her out of reach of her rivals for the overall with only two World Cups remaining this season. For Fischuber, his second win of the season provided him with some much needed points, boosting him into fourth in the rankings and back into contention for the overall title.
The assembled crowd remained raucous and enthusiastic throughout the entire evening, growing ever louder with each competitor and attempt. The international competitors commented on the crows support. The eventual winner Killian Fischuber, said” it was really nice, there not too many people but they were cheering really loud. It was spectacular and it really pushed me up.” The loudest cheers, however, were for home favourite Sean McColl and eventual winner Anna Stohr.
Commenting afterwards on Canada’s second-ever World Cup and his first as head organizer, Luigi Montilla breathed a sigh of relief and satisfaction, “I have invested two years of my life into this project… I am just happy it all went smoothly.” When asked for his personal highlights of the weekend, Montilla answered “definitely when the doors opened to the first spectators in the morning, and then when the very first climber stepped onto the wall.”
How it Unfolded
Well over an hour before the scheduled start of the final round, a sizable crowd was already lined up outside of the venue. Before the real action got underway the crowd was treated to a formal introduction to the six male and female finalists and a brief explanation of the rules and format. There were to be four problems, with the finalists given one minute to preview each problem as a group, after which they returned to isolation and came out in pairs of one man and one woman for their attempts, of up to four minutes per problem.
Problem one, a simple run and jump into a press up for men, and a balance intensive traverse for the women, was relatively easy by World Cup standards; an appetizer to warm the competitors and the crowds. All competitors flashed or sent it within a few tries.
The difficulty level rose by several notches for problem two. The women faced a straightforward rising traverse on a series of horrendous crimps and bad slopers for the feet. Stohr, who qualified in fourth place was the first to complete the problem, sending the crowd wild. American Puccio was the strongest on this problem and looked headed for a flash, but flubbed going to the finishing hold twice before managing to gather herself for the send. Noguchi and the UK’s Shauna Coxsey also completed the problem, but Coxsey looked the least comfortable on her send.
For the men, the routesetters had set a tricky mantle in a corner, with triangular volumes and virtually no holds. The sequential and off-balance problem confounded all competitors, getting them into awkward and untenable positions before they fell. Fischuber and Verhoeven were the only two to solve the puzzle by committing to leaving the safety of the corner early for a more controlled swing, separating themselves from the rest of the pack, making it a two-horse race.
Though it was ultimately unsent, the third problem for men was a visual gem. It forced the competitors to start in a corner under an overhang facing outward towards the audience, giving them a view of the competitors’ faces as they started. The competitors had to throw for two crimps under a spherical volume under the lip, spin around 180º and make a blind slap for a bad crimp on the volumes above the lip. If they got that far, there were three further sloping crimps guarding the finishing hold.
Of the men, Killian Fischuber came closest on this problem, reaching the penultimate hold before falling, while Verhoeven failed to stick the bonus hold, a difference that would prove decisive. But the best moment from problem three came from Japanese climber Rei Sugimoto, who fell off with only seconds left on the clock, immediately sprang up and sprinted back to the starting holds, knowing that as long as he made it before the buzzer, he would be allowed to start and make one last attempt.
The final problem for the men was a relatively easy and straightforward affair that climbed out the steep central cave, making for a crowd-pleasing finish. The majority of the finalists flashed it, with the exception of Fischuber and McColl, who sent it second go, a mistake that would prove costly for the Canadian, pushing him down to sixth. Speaking afterwards, McColl was sanguine, “I am obviously a little disappointed, but this was a strong field, with Killian, Jorg and Jacob, they’ve all won before. I can’t be too unhappy about the result. The crowd was really amazing for me.”
The women’s contest was still tightly packed by the third problem, with Stohr, Noguchi, Puccio and Coxsey still in running for the win. The problem demanded long pulls on bad pinches and side pulls set on volumes on a 30 degree overhanging wall, testing the women’s strength and technical heel-hooking. American Puccio looked super strong on the problem, easily pulling her way towards the flash, in fact Puccio was feeling so strong, she continued past the finishing hold onto a neighbouring climb. Puccio nearly jumped off before realizing her mistake and matched on the proper finish, avoiding a potentially costly mistake. Though Shauna Coxsey also managed to complete problem three, her multiple attempts meant she would fall out of podium contention.
With Stohr, Puccio and Noguchi tied at three tops each, the final problem for the women needed to be a real test, and it was. The compression style problem climbed across the steepest cave along a series of volumes, and required a complicated and specific sequence to unlock, and immense core and upper body strength to execute. It completely shut down Katharina Saurwein, Momoka Oda and Shauna Coxsey, the other three female finalists.
Stohr was the first of the trio to tackle the problem and looked truly tested for the first time that day. After she fell off her second attempt, Stohr – who was popular with the audience – roused the crowd to their feet and set off for her third and successful attempt amid deafening cheers. The decibel level of the crowd only grew as she stuck the finishing hold, putting the pressure on Puccio and Noguchi, who needed to send the final problem to win. Ultimately both Puccio and Noguchi would come up short, reaffirming Stohr’s status as the reigning queen of competition bouldering and the woman to beat in the world right now.