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A 17-Year-Old World Champion Crowned in Moscow

The Lead World Champions have been decided and the most significant year in competitive climbing history has drawn to a close in Moscow

This afternoon saw the end of Sport Climbing’s most important season. Between the pandemic, its subsequent regulations, seemingly countless World Cup cancellations and a host of unique performances, climbing moved into a spot light all its own.

These considerations aside, this last year brought about new Speed world records, Sport Climbing’s Olympic debut, and concluded in the crowning of six new World Champions across the sport’s three disciplines.

In the midst of these last days, the IFSC announced the cancellation of yet another World Cup. Although the Lead World Cup series finished in advance of this cancellation, both Boulder and Lead came to an early end. As such, the significance of this week’s World Championships increased as the event progressed.

Natalia Grossman in semis – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

Men

In finals, the men came out first with Team Japan’s Yoshiyuki Ogata. The route sought to unsettle the athlete with a dyno early on, but Ogata move along unfazed. After pulling through a delicate middle section, he climbed passed the more angular boxes of the route’s first third and climbed into a complex series of dual textured grips. Many of these also featured screw-on gibs that made for tenuous clipping positions and on-the-fly beta changes.

Desperately slapping his way up the headwall, Ogata moved into the final section of red boxes. A pressing sequence pushed the athlete within just a few holds of the finish and yet he would fall to earn seventh position, only three holds from the finish.

Ogata’s teammate Tomoa Narasaki then joined the field. He climbed with even greater stability than Ogata and pushed all the way through to the final move. Following an appeal, Narasaki did not earn the plus for the move. This seemed contestable as he made an effort to go to the next hold, but the judges ruled against him.

This ruling proved inconsequential as Narasaki’s first-held position, one move from the finish, only earned him fifth in this field of contenders.

Tomoa Narasaki in qualies – photo by Jan Virt

Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi came out next and fell low on the delicate route. He appeared so scrambled by the dyno early on, that he could not recover his flow. He finished in eighth position.

This result would have disappointed the Italian athlete who, despite having a strong season filled with finals, found it difficult to maintain consistency on the podium. His German peer Sebastian Halenke followed Ghisolfi’s run but could not make it further than Ogata. Halenke appeared too excited at the end of the route. Although he found the first no-hands rest in a competition of this kind in a long time, he could not move past sixth position.

In the end, it became a game of Tops. The Czech Republic’s Martin Stranik concluded his season with a fourth position finish beating Narasaki by countbacks. Stranik also appeared slightly unsettled by the dyno, but recovered his head in the concluding moves. Still, it would not be enough.

Slovenia’s Luka Potocar also seemed unsettled by the dyno, but it would not matter. The progressively more consistent athlete had his best performance of the season and climbed high into the end of the route. Eying the final hold, Potocar leapt, caught with a single hand, and overcame his fatigue to Top at the end of this exhausting competition.

This Top earned the Slovenian first, but the two favourites had yet to come. Austria’s Jakob Schubert climbed awkwardly, not quite hitting the holds as he may have wanted, but overcoming his head, found his way through to the final hold. Even he appeared surprised by the result. Schubert led Potocar by countbacks, but the game still held opportunity for a new World Champion.

Britain’s Hamish McArthur descended on the route, making it near the top, but a foot slip brought Great Britain’s phenom down to a third place finish. Still, in his first open World Championships, McArthur proved himself a powerful contender for the island nation.

Hamish Mcarthur Tops in semis – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

Women

The palm-sweating finals gave way to an equally unbelievable, and arguably more interesting Women’s final. Russia’s Dinara Fakhritdinova continued her strong season by moving well through the compressing pinches of the route’s bottom third. Baring her courage, she jumped to complete a more technical dyno than the men’s route, laterally committing to a sloper hanging from the angle.

Fakhritdinova then exited the sequence and moved into a squeezy series of peacock-coloured dual-textured pinches that brought her toward the penultimate angle change. She moved through these holds with relative ease, until she became uncomfortable on the move leading into the head wall. Pullin hard, she climbed toward the blocked crimp, but fired off and into seventh position.

American Brooke Raboutou then entered the field completing the bottom moves with greater difficulty than her predecessor. The moves appeared just at the limits of her reach. Still, Raboutou moved on through the dyno, heading straight for the closer of the two grips. The multi-axis swing appeared relatively controlled, but still showed the limits of her reach.

As the route progressed, move after move had Raboutou extended to her maximum reach before she ultimately gained the head wall. She climbed well through the hold that stumped Fakhritdinova. Raboutou then slammed into and a massive undercling and compressed her way into a standing position. Unable to quite stick the next hold, Raboutou fell and concluded her competition in fifth position.

Laura Rogora in semis – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

Still, her result placed her in first over the course of the next two athletes’ performances. France’s Salomé Romain and Japan’s Natsuki Tanii each climbed well, but below the American taking eighth and sixth respectively.

It would take Austria’s Jessica Pilz to move beyond Raboutou’s high-point, but only by a hold and a move. As such, Pilz took fourth. Then the leaders entered the field. Grossman came out next, tied for second with Rogora coming out of semis. If these two athletes tied, their results would separate by the time each took to attain high point.

Grossman moved well and established first position above Pilz. She secured a terrible screw-on before skirting off the sloping edge of the undercling. In the end Rogora would in fact match this high point, but due to the previous two ties, Grossman’s speed earned her the lead position. Of course, Chaehyun Seo had not yet climbed.

The Korean Lead specialist is probably the only climber to move with greater consistency on a rope than Grossman. Seo even outclimbed Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret at one point this year. By itself this could exemplify Seo’s incredible ability to remain constant on the wall.

The women’s route appeared difficult all the way through to the second-to-last hold, but Seo only needed to stand upon the volume and move to the next hold. In doing so, she earned first position. Maintaining her focus, Seo pressed through the delicate top sequence earning her first Open World Championship title at the age of 17. This improves on her fourth position finish in 2019 and establishes her as one of the best, if not the best competitive Lead climber in the World.

Men’s Result

1 – Jakob Schubert (AUT)

2 – Luka Potocar (SLO)

3 – Hamish McArthur (GBR)

4 – Martin Stranik (CZE)

5 – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)

6 – Sebastian Halenke (GER)

7 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)

8 – Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA)

Women’s Result

1 – Chaehyun Seo (KOR)

2 – Natalia Grossman (USA)

3 – Laura Rogora (ITA)

4 – Jessica Pilz (AUT)

5 – Brooke Raboutou (USA)

6 – Natsuki Tanii (JPN)

7 – Dinara Fakhritdinova (CFR)

8 – Salomé Romain (FRA)

Featured image of Chaehyun Seo by Dimitris Tosidis.