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Grossman Leads, but Three Dark Horses Emerge at Brixen

A 16-year-old makes finals in her first World Cup while Team Japan takes half the finals spots

How do you track the field? After four Boulder World Cups this year, it can feel as though we have an assessment of the women’s category. This morning’s semi-final proved that presumption incorrect when three athletes pushed from their first semi-final into their first World Cup final.

Grossman Flashes All Four Boulders

Many expect the American to win, but this morning’s round expressed the precision required to stay at the top of the field. The World Champion moved quickly through the first two problems before coming upon the challenging W3. Where many fell, Grossman reassessed. She attempted to move through the crux by rocking over on her heel but found the movement difficult.

Reassessing, she downclimbed, adding four or five additional hand movements. She carried on to flash to the boulder. Only Japan’s Miho Nonaka matched that performance. Grossman’s precision was further expressed by her mastery of W4 where she took two minutes to flash the climb. In doing so, she took first and flashed the round.

The Return of Miho Nonaka

After a difficult start to her season, Nonaka returned to the podium. She secured bronze and silver medals in Salt Lake City, and qualified for finals today with four Tops and four Zones in five attempts, allowing only the smallest space for Grossman to edge ahead.

High-top Boulder Rounds Continue at Brixen

High-top rounds are a bit of a mixed bag. For some athletes, the easier boulders are frustrating because they do not test what they have trained. In a post, Yoshiyuki Ogata addressed the easier set in Salt Lake and said the following:

“I think the World Cup should be one of the stages to see the strongest climbers, but it actually seemed just like [an] attempt game with some risky moves.

I expect harder boulders in next World Cups and continue to train for getting stronger as always.”

He went on to say that he enjoyed the round but wanted to share his thoughts. This perspective contrasts with the alternative crowd-pleasing perspective that supposedly comes most readily from high-top rounds. This appears to be an ideology, but it has its problems.

In the women’s field, today, six athletes shared a score of three Tops and four Zones. Fortunately, the Top six were separable by attempts from the seventh placed athlete. With that said, Austria’s Jessica Pilz took seventh to Japan’s Anon Matsufuji by one attempt. Matsufuji shared the exact same score, three Tops and four Zones in six attempts, as both Serika Okawachi and Zhilu Luo.

Although only six will go to finals, the top eight are listed at the bottom of this article with attempts to Top showing how narrowly separation occurred. Furthermore, Okawachi and Luo are tied for fourth, a problem for finals if they tie in a podium contesting position.

Three Dark Horses

This tie breaking problem may present in finals as Okawachi and Luo climbed masterfully in their first World Cup semi-final. 18-year-old Matsufuji also climbed well this morning. It was her first World Cup semi-final as well.

The biggest surprise of the round was 16-year-old Zhilo Luo, however. The Chinese boulderer moved masterfully, making a name for herself by taking finals in this, her first World Cup. Luo looks like she might podium, though Germany’s Hannah Meul will be difficult to beat.

Okawachi and Matsufuji show that the depth of the field surpasses the expectations spectators could have formed over the last few months, and, more importantly, show Team Japan can take half the spots in a women’s final. Although we have become accustomed to watching the men’s team clean a round, similar results in the women’s field may speak toward a projected dominance in the next season.

The women’s boulder final will begin at 2:00pm ET. The men’s semi-final and final rounds begin tomorrow.

Women Advancing to Finals

Note: T = Tops; Z = Zone; AT = Attempts to Top

Only the top six will advance to finals

1 – Natalia Grossman (USA) 4T 4Z 4AT

2 – Miho Nonaka (JPN) 4T 4Z 5AT

3 – Hannah Meul (GER) 3T 4Z 4AT

4 – Serika Okawachi (JPN) 3T 4Z 6AT

4 – Zhilu Luo (CHN) 3T 4Z 6AT

6 – Anon Matsufuji (JPN) 3T 4Z 6AT


7 – Jessica Pilz (AUT) 3T 4Z 7AT

8 – Futaba Ito (JPN) 3T 4Z 8AT