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Last into Semis, Fourth into Finals – Moscow World Championships

Israel's Nimrod Marcus comes back 16 positions in his pursuit of gold in Boulder at the Moscow World Championships

The Men’s Boulder semi-final concluded early this morning in Moscow. While brutal, the round featured numerous surprises that kept the audience engaged throughout the length of the competition.

Tomoa Narasaki in the qualification round – Photo by Jan Virt

The event kicked off with Israel’s Nimrod Marcus. Though ranked in 20 position heading into this morning’s event, Marcus struck an early lead with a flash of M1. Despite its relatively simple aesthetic, the small angles and available positions of the volume-laden climb provided opportunities for beta. This became a theme among the boulders.

Marcus took a direct approach, crossing over his body from a dimpled fibreglass grip through to a hold with an edge screwed on to its most positive surface. Although it seemed possible to move straight to the finish from that position, the throw proved challenging enough to kick off most every competitor who followed.

While many ultimately sent the climb, few made it look easy. Marcus picked a good day to have a great session. Unlike the parade format of a final round, semis ran according to a five-on, five-off format. This exhausting style of competition wore quickly on the competitor’s skin and strength. The larger friction-dependent holds put constant pressure on the climber’s muscle groups.

Although a powerful boulder round is nothing new, the relatively low angles of Moscow’s walls gave route setters a unique opportunity. Taking many of the large sorts of shapes seen throughout the Women’s rounds, along with several new ideas, setters forced the athletes through four physical, yet technical boulder problems.

Yannick Flohé in the qualification round – Photo by Jan Virt

Exiting the dynamic, but breakable M1, competitors found themselves on a slabby M2. Although M2 gave up the Zone without much of a fight, the subsequent slab sequence required a high degree of shoulder strength and mobility. Upon entering the Zone on his second attempt, Marcus found the body position and pressed between the wall and a large triangular volume. Working his feet up, he soon found himself wedged in a corner before popping out onto the best finish hold of the round.

With two tops so early in the competition, it seemed that the round might not be as difficult as it had seemed. By the time the field moved to boulder three, it became clear that the setters had afforded their climbers enough challenging problems.

As athlete after athlete fell on M1 and M2, Marcus’s early-comp performance became anomalous. Even Russia’s Aleksey Rubtsov failed to complete M1. Despite their difficulties, boulder problems were topped and Zones were achieved.

Of those that floundered early, Japan’s Tomoaki Takata appeared lost on most every boulder he attempted. The young athlete had not competed in quite some time but found his footing by the third boulder. Although he achieved Zone on both M1 and M2, M3 offered a physical challenge that few climbers could handle. The powerful sloping start pulled athletes through to a terrible dead point. Built with the same sloper pinches made famous in Meiringen, Takata earned Zone before falling higher up. Although many climbed as high as Takata, none would secure the finish.

Mickael Mawem in the qualification round – Photo by Jan Virt

While many of the world’s strongest did not attend this event, the field still featured a dense array of contenders. Russia’s Aleksey Rubtsov, a climber who made semis in each of his last 21 international competitions, qualified for this event in 15. Unfazed by his relatively low placement, Rubtsov became a crowd favourite over the length of the competition.

After securing a top on M2, Rubtsov could not establish Zone on the challenging M3. In the end, the Russian did not need this Zone. He climbed quickly through M4 and became the second to top the challenging problem.

In the end, his two tops and three Zones earned Rubtsov finals in his home country. This result appealed to Moscow’s spectators and brought a notable scream of pride from the boulderer.

Britain’s Billy Ridal and Korea’s Minyoung Lee also climbed well through Semis. They managed a Top of M4 after having limited success elsewhere in the competition. Although Lee was not the first athlete to attempt full-crimping the screw holes that secured the volume to the wall, he was the first to do so successfully.

Unfortunately, Lee had an awkward fall that caused him a somewhat severe back injury following his ascent. The competition paused to give the athlete space. It then continued with the second half of the field. Although Tops became more frequent, several athletes had difficulty completing boulder problems quickly.

Hamish McArthur at the Youth World Championships – Photo by Jan Virt


Even Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki required three attempts to complete M1, only doing so with seconds left on the clock. Narasaki then breezed through M2 and M4 without securing Zone on M3. France’s Manuel Cornu reflected this result taking only one more attempt to Top than Narasaki.

While Cornu has a long history of competition and outdoor climbing, his relative inconsistency makes him difficult to bet on. With that said, Cornu climbed with precision in the day’s event.

Japan’s Kokoro Fujii entered semis last due to his first-placed qualification. As the arguable favourite heading into the round, Fujii walked through M1 and M2, even sticking the Zone on M3. Like many athletes, Fujii simply could not get the body position well enough to make M4 and concluded the round in third position.

Concluding the roster, Slovenia’s Anze Perharc climbed into fifth position with two fewer attempts than Rubtsov. Furthermore, Britain’s Hamish McArthur climbed into seventh just three attempts behind Rubtsov. Although he will not join the others in finals, his performance speaks of something special. The young British climber received two gold medals in the Youth World Championships a few weeks ago and brought that prowess to the world stage today. He has become one climber to watch.

Watch the Men’s Boulder World Championships final here.

Men Advancing to Finals

1 – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)

2 – Manuel Cornu (FRA)

3 – Kokoro Fujii (JPN)

4 – Nimrod Marcus (ISR)

5 – Anze Peharc (SLO)

6 – Aleksey Rubtsov (CFR)

Featured image of Mejdi Schalck by Jan Virt.