High expectations greeted competitors in Seoul this week as the Speed Series opened with the first World Cup on Asian soil since 2019. 74 athletes began this competition, with 32 moving to the finals. With a qualification round discovering a new world record holder in the men’s field, and a faster world record in the women’s field, the finals stage was set for an exhilarating competition.
A notable 6.30 second run from Canada’s Dylan Le in qualifiers placed the all-rounder within five places of finals. He concluded his competition in 21, a strong result for the athlete’s first Speed World Cup. Should he continue to progress, he could make finals as early as next year, although the challenge of cutting tenths of a second cannot be overstated. Still, the men needed to run under six seconds to make finals in today’s competition.
To begin, Indonesia swept the podium. They operated at another level and appeared untouchable. The early rounds brought about a couple of upsets, but the fastest men largely finished near the top of the field.
Speed legend Raza Alipor Shenazandifard made a mistake early and missed out on further qualification. To that effect, Korea’s Seung Beom Lee ran exceptionally well in his home country’s competition, but otherwise, the men’s field ranked within expectations.
Although there weren’t any massive surprises in the ranking, the competition itself was electric. Italy’s Ludovico Fossali ripped his way to fourth position after a 12-place qualification in the previous round. He fell in the half final, and small final, but ran 5.61 and 5.64 in the eighth- and quarterfinals.
His performance was overshadowed by the Indonesian team’s consistency and pace. Former World Record holder Veddriq Leonardo competed against teammate and new World Record holder Kiromal Katibin for the gold and silver medals.
As they approached the line, their personal bests flashed on the screen: Katibin, PB – 5.17; Leonardo, PB – 5.20. There was a feeling that these climbers would have to pull quick if they wanted to win. They readied their marks and were off. Shockingly, they both false started.
Much to the credit of the judges, they were allowed to go again, and the anticipation built further. Once more Katibin false started and disqualified himself from gold medal contention the round went to Leonardo.
Walking away with a world record and a silver medal, Katibin appeared okay with the result. Leonardo was also excited to earn his first gold of the season. The fact that both athletes false started shows the margins these athletes are dealing with. Victory between their bests could easily come down to hundredths of a second.
Although false starts and falls did occur within the Indonesian team’s performance, one of the greatest take-aways from this competition was the team’s consistency. As with Bouldering and Sport Climbing, the ability to execute consistently is essential for medalling in Speed. Being the strongest is only important if you can climb well each time you pull onto the wall.
The women’s final boasted exceptional results as well with Poland’s Aleksandra Miroslaw and America’s Emma Hunt each climbing into medal positions. In the women’s field, the Indonesian team lacked the consistency of their male counterparts. This gave room for the Polish team to push onto the podium.
As the most consistent speed climber in the world, Miroslaw retained her first-place position over the length of the competition. Still, this weekend tested her ability as American Emma Hunt climbed well across the final.
Although Miroslaw did win by a half-second, she clearly pushed hard in the final round as Emma Hunt chased the Olympic speed climber. They were followed by Poland’s Aleksandra Kalucka and Franziska Ritter, who finished their competitions in third and fourth respectively.
Hunt’s form today suggested potential for a strong upcoming season. Last year, Hunt’s greatest challenge was consistency. If she can retain this speed and level headedness in the upcoming competitions, she may even catch Miroslaw slipping as we saw with the male medalists.
The high-tension sprinting discipline is hard to stay level-headed in. Though Miroslaw is certainly the best woman on a speed wall in the world, even the best, like Katabin, can sometimes false start.
1 – Veddriq Leonardo (INA)
2 – Kiromal Katibin (INA)
3 – Rahmad Adi Mulyono (INA)
1 – Aleksandra Miroslaw (POL)
2 – Emma Hunt (USA)
3 – Aleksandra Kalucka (POL)
Featured image Dimitris Tosidis.