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15-Year-Old Takes Gold and Shawn Raboutou Returns to the Podium

The North American Cup Series draws to a close in Alexandria, Virginia. What does this event mean for North American Sport Climbing?

The final event of this week’s five day competition concluded in Alexandria this evening. Yesterday brought about the beginning of the Lead competition with a nail biting qualification round. This gave way to the morning’s semi-final which placed athletes within hairs’ breadths of one another. This continued through the final where obvious cruxes halted the otherwise unstoppable field. While both gender categories had athletes who fell lower, the top four in the men’s field, and the top seven in the women’s all fell within a hold and a move of one another.

In the women’s category, a delicate slab pushed athletes through the first bolts before a steeper section. All broke through the black-hold barrier separating the lower section of the climb from the crux. This crux began with a clam-shell blocker that provided a bad rest before the most difficult moves of the climb. Upon attaining a subsequent crimp, competitors had to choose how they wanted navigate a large move to a sloping Cheeta hold. Crossing left provided the security that comes with a crimp and a smaller move, but brought about an uncomfortable swing.

And alternative option also existed where athletes could bump from the crimp to the Cheeta. This provided a better body position on the crux hold, but the move required a larger dead-point. Should the foot ping, or the hand slip, the climber would surely fall. As the women tried to navigate this move, most fell approaching the hold or after sticking it. They earned scores of 31+ or 32 respectively. Only Marielle Horstmann and 15-year-old Ella Fisher managed to move from the 32 hold. As such, they earned a (+) and an ultimate score of 32+ for first and second position. Fisher won the comp by countbacks after tying Megan Lynch at the top of the field in the previous round.

Although Lynch did not win this competition, her bronze Lead medal will pair well with her gold from this Thursday’s Boulder NACS event.

In the men’s field, a similar story of separation unfolded with most of the competitors falling within the last three holds. The men’s route was a resistance test-piece with climbers pushing through powerful moves toward a crux at the top. Once pumped, climbers began stepping high on boxes to prepare for a dyno into a one-handed catch on a volume. American boulderer Shawn Raboutou became the first to make it through the lower section to this crux. He prepared, leapt and snagged the grip, only ripping off at the peak of the swing. It seemed more that he fumbled than lost the fight. Raboutou’s inclusion in this competition is interesting.

For the last three years, Raboutou has refrained from entering most elite-level competitions. Local boulder comps aside, the older brother of Olympian Brooke Raboutou has spent time developing some of the world’s hardest boulders in Switzerland, California and elsewhere. Could Raboutou be playing around with the idea of returning to competition? Very few climbers in the United States have established V16 at so young an age. With the financial support that comes from involvement in competitive climbing, and the relative lack of money in development, it may be an appealing option for a developing pro climber.

In either case, his involvement earned him silver in today’s competition. Raboutou earned silver to gold medalist Brian Squire. Squire has climbed well in 2022. The pair both earned a final score of 37+ and Squire won by countbacks. We spoke a bit about Squire’s achievements in the semi-final piece which can be found here.

For Canadians, many will note the success of Kindar McNamee who finished his competition with a bronze medal. It appeared that McNamee could have won the competition given a more efficient opening, but the Canadian climber appeared to search for beta in the opening sequence. Anyone that follows McNamee will know of his impressive strength, however, it should be mentioned that greater efficiency would turn McNamee from a strong lead climber to a permanent fixture of elite-level Lead podiums. Regardless, this first event of the season necessarily comes with stress, especially when last out on the mats. As the first placed qualified athlete heading into finals, McNamee held all of the pressure and retained a good head, ultimately securing his first medal at an NACS event.

Result

Women

1 – Ella Fisher (USA)

2 – Marielle Horstmann (USA)

3 – Megan Lynch (USA)

4 – Olivia Ma (USA)

5 – Nekaia Sanders (USA)

6 – Maya Madere (USA)

7 – Alina Albert (USA)

8 – Norah Chi (USA)

Men

1 – Brian Squire (USA)

2 – Shawn Raboutou (USA)

3 – Kindar McNamee (CAN)

4 – Tanner Bauer (USA)

5 – Isaac Leff (USA)

6 – Solomon Barth (USA)

7 – Leo Costanza (USA)

8 – Tyler Thompson (USA)

Featured image of Kindar McNamee by Jeffrey Shor.