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A Strong Semi-Final for the Americans in Briançon

A nail-biting Semi-Final round at the Briançon World Cup brought three Americans to the Final round. Several athletes could win.

Despite the shorter wall, Briançon’s 55-degree overhang added power and pump to the comparatively small stage. After last week in Chamonix, route setters had a lot of pressure to perform.

Natalia Grossman – Photo by Jan Virt

After Bulgaria’s Aleksandra Tutkova timed out while approaching the top it appeared as though the route might not put up enough resistance. This thought was further supported when Team USA’s Ashima Shiraishi demolished the otherwise cruxy line. Although these two athletes did qualify low, Totkova climbed through to bronze in Chamonix and Shiraishi’s strength needs little introduction.

Most of the field would not replicate their results. Of the women in the top eight heading into Semis, only Team USA’s Natalia Grossman, Slovenia’s Lucka Rakovec and her teammate Lana Skusek would retain top eight positions. Skusek would move from fifth to seventh, while Great Britain’s Molly Thompson-Smith, Japan’s Momoko Abe, France’s Nina Arthaud, and Austria’s Julia Fiser, in addition to Eva Hammelmüller, would each lose out to candidates who had qualified below them.

The crux of their route revolved around a thuggy sloping section that featured both a technical clip and a frustrating volume corner that, for almost every athlete, would become caught under the volume. When the athletes arrived at that portion of the route, many would become noticeably unnerved by this entanglement. Several athletes would simply power out before that point on the last volume-fixed sloper.

If an athlete could make it through this balancy crux sequence, it became likely that they would top the route. Still, Japan’s Natsuki Tanii would make it through the bottom after having expended too much energy to make the top eight. She would finish ninth just out of Finals.

Aleksandra Totkova – Photo by Jan Virt

Among Briançon’s top eight women, Czech climber Eliska Adamovska and Slovenia’s Vita Lukan would each climb with similar form to the first and second placed qualified Grossman and Rakovec. They would take third and fourth place respectively. Adamovska remains one climber that the international community has heard only a little about, but could very well be the darkhorse for this competition.

In the Men’s field, only Russia’s Dmitrii Fakirianov and Ukraine’s Fedir Samoilov joined the top eight. All six other competitors retained a position amid the other high ranked athletes.

While the Women’s field had a couple of strong climbers out early, it would be until Canada’s Victor Baudrand that any athlete in the Men’s field made progress through the crux section of their route. After climbing through a difficult crimp-pinch section in the overhang, Baudrand moved to rest on a sloper before the angle change. Climbing well, he moved through a seemingly no-shadow sequence between volumes before ultimately falling before going through to the Final’s-guaranteeing hold.

He would hold his position at the top of the field as athlete after athlete fell beneath him. This trend would persist for seven athletes until Fakirianov pushed well above Baudrand ultimately taking third position. The 11 place qualified Fakirianov would open the gates on the rest of the route, as ninth place qualified Somoilov, and a majority of the athletes who followed him, pushed up to Baudrand’s highpoint or beyond it.

Stefano Ghisolfi – Photo by Jan Virt

It would take seventh place qualified American Sean Bailey to show off the top portion of the route as the effortlessly strong climber stood all the way through to the final dyno. Jumping but missing the final grip, Bailey would take second after countbacks to Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi.

Ghisolfi has had a strong season and easily represents one of the field’s most experienced competition and rock climbers. This last season has dropped Ghisolfi just short of gold numerous times. The Italian will go head-to-head against Bailey in a race to the top of the wall. Presuming that both athletes top Finals, the first-place podium will go to the athlete that climbed the route fastest. Due to the tie in Semis, countbacks cannot separate the two leaders in Finals.

Although many will wait to see whether Bailey can stitch together a third consecutive Lead title, several other athletes in the top eight, such as Spain’s Alberto Ginés López and Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann could easily take the spot for themselves. There is likely a limit on how hard Lopëz is willing to try in Finals due to the fact that he will compete in the Olympic Games in two weeks. For López, the World Cup circuit has acted as his training ground for a strong Olympic push.

Finals will begin at 1:30 pm EST tomorrow July 18.

Men Advancing to Finals

1 : Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA)

2 : Sean Bailey (USA)

3 : Dmitrii Fakirianov (RUS)

4 : Martin Stranik (CZE)

5 : Sascha Lehmann (SUI)

6 : Luka Potocar (SLO)

7 : Alberto Ginés López (ESP)

8 : Fedir Samoilov (UKR)

Women Advancing to Finals

1 : Natalia Grossman (USA)

2 : Lucka Rakovec (SLO)

3 : Eliska Adamovska (CZE)

4 : Vita Lukan (SLO)

5 : Ashima Shiraishi (USA)

6 : Aleksandra Totkova (BUL)

7 : Lana Skusek (SLO)

8 : Ryu Nakagawa (JPN)