Finals finished in Salt Lake last night, taking two 18-year-olds, three of Japan’s finest, and two Americans to the ultimate podium. In the men’s field, the night went to France’s Mejdi Schalck, while the women saw a dominant performance from America’s strongest competitors.
Over the last year, Schalck climbed with progressively greater consistency. Last year in Salt Lake City, he earned his first World Cup medal. A year later, Schalck earned his second with a bronze medal in Meiringen. In that event, he finished behind Team Japan’s Yoshiyuki Ogata. Last night, he outclimbed his competitors and earned his first gold against the best in the World. He out-climbed Ogata by two attempts.
Ogata led the competition after the first two boulders. As the round progressed, his single-attempt lead diminished as he racked up further burns. Although Ogata continued to send each boulder, Schalck took and kept the lead. Still, Ogata’s consistency remains.
While Schalck has shown marked improvement in the last year, no one in the men’s field can boast Ogata’s record. This year, Japan’s powerhouse has made every Boulder World Cup final, medalling in each of them. While Ogata will have to wait further for his first gold medal of 2022, yesterday’s silver ranks him in the best position for the 2022 World Cup Series Title.
Although many will note that Japan did not win the men’s category this time around, both second and third place went to the Japanese team. Rei Kawamata took home his first World Cup medal yesterday evening with a masterful three Tops and four Zones. He took bronze by an entire Top and Zone to Austria’s Nicolai Uznik.
At 18-years-old, Kawamata joins Schalck as one of the youngest competitors to face off in 2022’s World Cup finals. Only France’s Oriane Bertone regularly competes in finals at an age younger than these medal winners.
The already exciting men’s competition left spectators little to want for, but the women’s category featured a more impressive performance. After her first-place qualification heading into Finals, America’s Brooke Raboutou was last to climb on a dynamic W1. After an exciting start where Austria’s Jessica Pilz scored a blistering buzzer beater, Grossman also managed to repeat the difficult problem.
Raboutou then stepped up to the climb and struggled with the opening moves. As the clock ran down, she re-evaluated and managed to find her rhythm. With seconds left, she stuck the finish hold with a single hand. Raboutou campussed in to match just as time ran down. She could not be awarded the top.
Unfettered, Raboutou continued, chasing down front runners Natalia Grossman and Miho Nonaka. Following her sabbatical from the podium, Japan’s Nonaka returned in force this evening and topped each of the final three boulder problems. Only outdone by attempts by Raboutou, Nonaka walked away with Bronze as Raboutou secured her silver. Gold, of course, went to the Bouder World Champion.
Although many have come to expect excellence from Grossman, her consistency up to this point is remarkable. If not for Janja Garnbret, Grossman would be considered the best and most consistent competitor in the world. If a competitor is defined by actively participating in competitions, then it must be said: Natalia Grossman is currently the best climber in either category on the circuit.
It becomes easy to feel like wins come naturally to Grossman, but each victory is earned. Her third place into semis showed this fact.
As time passes, the American champion is becoming indistinguishable from her Slovenian counterpart. Although the actual gap in strength between the competitors is, for now, unmeasurable, a person wonders whether this pressure to win sill strengthen Grossman.
Although this event draws to a close, the ParaClimbing World Cup will begin in Salt Lake on May 24, with similar livestreams available here. Next weekend will see a return of the Speed and Boulder World Cups concluding the Salt Lake City Triple Header. In the meanwhile, Canadian Youth Lead Nationals wraps up in Quebec today. Tune in here to watch.
1 – Natalia Grossman (USA)
2 – Brooke Raboutou (USA)
3 – Miho Nonaka (JPN)
4 – Jessica Pilz (AUT)
5 – Franziska Sterrer (AUT)
6 – Camilla Moroni (ITA)
1 – Mejdi Schalck (FRA)
2 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)
3 – Rei Kawamata (JPN)
4 – Nicolas Uznik (AUT)
5 – Yannick Flohé (GER)
6 – Jakob Schubert (AUT)
Featured image of Mejdi Schalck by Daniel Gajda.