This morning’s semi-final brought a rule change following the outrage regarding this weekend’s previous rounds. In Friday’s qualification rounds, both gender categories were given photos of the upcoming boulder problems. This changed the nature of a Boulder World Cup. This continued into Saturday’s semi-final. Serbia’s Stasa Gejo and Germany’s Alex Megos were among the first athletes to protest the rule change on social media. Many followed soon after.
As reported by the livestream that ran along this morning’s male semi-final, this rule shifted back to the conventional on-sight format. It remains unclear how the IFSC will proceed. The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) did not comment on the rule change in yesterday’s press release.
Like yesterday’s event, the top six from semis carried a few of the consistent athletes from 2022 along with new faces and burgeoning World Cup stars. Japan dominated the round with three of their athletes making the top six. Both Kokoro Fujii and Tomoa Narasaki secured first and second as the only athletes to Top all four boulders.
Their teammate Yoshiyuki Ogata qualified in fifth, with two Tops showing a similar spread of ability, at least within the round, as seen in the women’s final. Realistically, the difference between competitors’ strengths closer than this Top disparity indicates. Although Kokoro Fujii is likely the strongest competition boulderer in the world, he struggles with beta reading making his first-place position far from certain.
With that said, his progressively more potent season last year brought about his World Championship title. The fact that he has qualified for finals in first shows consistency despite a weaker qualification round. To that effect, Narasaki always offers consistency in the World Cups and took second at the World Championships. Still, he struggled at the Japan Cup and suggested he needed to refocus his training. This came on top of what was, for him, a less-than-desirable performance at the Tokyo Olympics.
Despite these weaknesses, these two remain the obvious favourites for the round. To that effect, Ogata may not have qualified in the top three but as a gold medalist from last season, has the capacity to take finals to the Top. While Ogata has rounds where he seems untouchable, there are times when he cannot seem to make things stick. Although he is consistent to semi-finals and fairly consistent to finals, he is not a permanent fixture of the podium like his teammates.
With that said, Team Japan will struggle to clear the entire podium. Team USA’s Colin Duffy has reached a new level and has shown unflappable consistency since the Olympic Games. Duffy does hard climbs quickly and appeared to only falter on M1 in semis because of a reach issue to the Zone. It seems likely that Duffy could win gold in a World Cup this year. He is one of the strongest competition climbers in the world.
He is also joined by two other young climbers, 17-year-old Mejdi Schalck and 18-year-old Paul Jenft. Both French climbers displayed their team’s ability in today’s semi-final. They seem less consistent than Duffy, but on coordination, few climbers approach Schalck’s general ability. Schalck is the most coordinated younger competitor in the field, but Duffy is certainly stronger.
Finals begins at 9:55am EST.
Men Advancing to Finals
1 – Kokoro Fujii (JPN)
2 – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)
3 – Mejdi Schalck (FRA)
4 – Colin Duffy (USA)
5 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)
6 – Paul Jenft (FRA)
Featured image of Tomoa Narasaki by Jan Virt.