Over two days, three rounds and an almost uncountable number of attempts, the Bouldering World Cup in Salt Lake City finally drew to a close. Kokoro Fujii finished his final boulder took fourth position and the onlookers stood amazed by the performances of the IFSC’s youngest athletes.
The Finals round began with the Women’s category and the French Team’s Oriane Bertone. The young athlete qualified for Finals in sixth position. After breaking the beat on nearly every boulder she finished, she finished the competition in second.
Miho Nonaka followed and though she climbed well, had to settle for fourth position. Unfortunately a doubt-filled slab would run out her clock before she could make the ascent.
Next on the pads were Team Austria’s Jessica Pilz and Johanna Färber who would finish in fifth and sixth respectively, each with a top and a handful of zones between them.
Naturally, the crowd lit up most for the Americans as the hosting country offered the first World Cup, with an audience, of the season. Olympian Brooke Raboutou and her best friend Natalia Grossman would come out onto the mats, climbing neck-and-neck until Raboutou could not finish W4.
The challenging and highly dynamic final boulder appeared to have the win cinched for Bertone until Grossman manage to snag the crux and zone hold, winning the competition for the American Team. Much like the men’s round in Meiringen, spectators watched on the edges of their seats until Grossman’s final burn.
For the men, Finals began with a young French climber as it did with the women. 17-year-old Mejdi Schalck would race onto the pads, coordinating his way through to the zone. Unable to finish the boulder, he appeared frustrated, but his effort would ultimately earn him second position. As this became his second World Cup, his performance makes him, like Bertone, an anomaly. They may represent a new generation in competition-proficient climbers that operate at another level. Few can remember an under 18 in the men’s category competing so well since Megos or Ondra.
The field continued to open with Anze Peharc, Jakob Schubert, and Gregor Vezonik. Vezonik and Peharc each hale from Slovenia’s National Team. They would finish in fifth and sixth position with a similar top to zone spread as the Austrians in the previous category.
Schubert would climb extremely well, at one point even listening the cheers of the crowd for a hint on M3 and ultimately took third position. Ondra came out next and dominated the competition. His win makes him the first male competitor to win consecutive bouldering World Cups in four years. Kokoro Fujii followed and though he competed well, would not be able to keep up having made an error on M3. Fujii could become an extremely strong competitor given another year or two of experience.
The competition ended with Fujii. It also left questions for this upcoming World Cup, also in Salt Lake City, next week. The event will include speed and a number of other Olympians. Most notably, Janja Garnbret and Tomoa Narasaki will return to the field. The real question will become any of those who competed this weekend have a hope of keeping Gold from these two.
They will both compete in speed in advance of the bouldering round, and, due to the fact that the boulders appeared easier than those in Meiringen, there may be an opportunity to beat Garnbret on attempts. Otherwise, her power and skill might seem almost insurmountable.
These back-to-back World Cups will offer a true test of mettle for Grossman, Bertone, and Schalck. These three have competed better and better in each of their competitions this year. It will be exciting to see whether they can recover enough for yet another World Cup in only six days’ time.
Men’s Final Results
1 : Adam Ondra (CZE)
2 : Mejdi Schalck (FRA)
3 : Jakob Schubert (AUT)
4 : Kokoro Fujii (JPN)
5 : Anze Peharc (SLO)
6 : Gregor Vezonik (SLO)
Women’s Final Results
1 : Natalia Grossman (USA)
2 : Oriane Bertone (FRA)
3 : Brooke Raboutou (USA)
4 : Miho Nonaka (JPN)
5 : Jessica Pilz (AUT)
6 : Johanna Farber (AUT)
Featured Image of Oriane Bertone by Jan Virt.