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Consistency Over Speed at IFSC Speed World Championships

The opening event of the 2021 IFSC World Championships show Speed to be a game of consistency instead of a race against the clock.

This week saw the beginning of the 2021 IFSC World Championships. Among the hundreds of athletes from dozens of nationalities, several have already pushed themselves onto podiums in Moscow’s earliest events.

Natalia Kalucka – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

After the opening ceremonies, international audiences began the week viewing the fast-paced Speed final. The event saw several strong contenders including Polish Olympian Aleksandra Miroslaw. Although Miroslaw became the arguable favourite for the round, several other women had the opportunity to strike hard in the Women’s Final. In the end it would be an upset.

Of the 16 climbers present, American national record holder Emma Hunt, Poland’s Natalia Kalucka, and Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina each had impressive runs. While Hunt left finals running short of her best, she made quarter-finals amongst a field of speed specialists. This speaks to the Young American’s ability to perform.

Hunt did not fall in finals, but found a couple of slips that cost her the competition. The head-to-head format of the event has changed the manner with which a person might approach speed climbing as the flow intensive discipline requires maximum power and coordination on every move. The mental fortitude required to both go quickly and not blunder a hold makes Speed more technical than its often over-simplified qualification.

Although the first rounds did little to surprise the field of at first, the half final saw the Olympic record holding Miroslaw fall in her run against teammate Kalucka. To her credit, Kalucka ran her fastest run of the competition pulling down 7.07 seconds. This became the second fastest time of the round, falling just short to Miroslaw’s 7.00 second run in the small final. Poland took gold and bronze respectively.

Alexandra Miroslaw – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

Although Kaplina did have a mistake in the final-final, her 7.09 second run more than earned her second placed position. She ultimately went home with silver despite her mistake in the final round. This gave Russia second and fourth positions as teammate Barashchuk finished the event just behind Miroslaw.

In the Men’s field, a similar story of heartbreak befell American record holder John Brosler. Despite running the second fastest time of the event, Brosler’s 5.72 would not earn him a place on the podium. Instead, he fell in the quarter final, losing to France’s Moro. Moro also slipped on his run and beat Brosler with a relatively slow 7.76 seconds.

To his credit, Moro did pull a 5.75 in the qualification event, but his slower times later in the competition again show just how delicate this sort of competition really is. While Brosler failed to earn a place on the podium, his teammate Noah Bratschi climbed consistently and well. Bratschi ran the entire competition without a single fall or substantial mistake, concluding his competition with a bronze.

The real winners of this evening’s event came from Spain’s Noya Cardona and Ukraine’s Boldyrev. The two athletes were inseparable in terms of consistency, although Noya Cardona’s 5.70 second run made him the quicker of the two. That said, his 5.95 run lost to Boldyrev’s 5.73 in the final-final. This result, despite not reflecting the fastest climber on the day, did show great sportsmanship as Noya Cardona came down from the wall smiling to have climbed so well over the course of the World Championships.

Noah Bratschi – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

With all of this said, the fastest speed climbers in the world did not attend this evening’s event. With the Olympics held in such proximity, this World Championships differs from the biennial events of the past, the World Cup Circuit and the Olympic Games.

What makes this World Championships unique from the more general World Cup circuit is its format. Although many World Cup athletes will compete in the events taking place this week, the World Championship title will ultimately go to the climber that does the best in each discipline within the course of the competition.

In some ways, the World Championships is like a single World Cup event. With that said, the World Cups rarely feature all three disciplines alongside the Paraclimbing category. Furthermore, the World Championships do not add to an aggregate score like the World Cup titles do.

Instead, the winner in Finals is the World Champion. Much like the Olympics, there do exist Combined medals for athletes that compete in each of Sport Climbing’s three disciplines. With that said, many that will compete in these days’ events, including all Canadian athletes, will only compete in one or two disciplines.

Although Canadian Ethan Pitcher has climbed a sub-six-second run, his performance did not earn him a place among the day’s finalists. With that said, his fastest time does make him competitive against these athletes. In the end, Speed seems similar to Boulder and Lead: the best athletes are consistent.

To that point, not all of the best athletes were present. Indonesia’s Kiromal Katibin, noted for holding the Speed world record, did not attend the event.

Danyil Boldyrev – photo by Dimitris Tosidis


Women’s Podium

1 – Natalia Kalucka (POL)

2 – Iuliia Kaplina (CFR)

3 – Miroslaw (POL)

Men’s Podium

1 – Danyil Boldyrev (UKR)

2 – Erik Noya Cardona (ESP)

3 – Noah Bratschi (USA)

Featured image of Natalia Kalucka by Dimitris Tosidis