The women’s category developed in Janja Garnbret’s absence. Although the Olympic gold medalist remains the best competitor in IFSC history, her absence from these last Boulder World Cups gave American Natalia Grossman room to grow. She did not grow alone. In the last events of this Boulder World Cup season, Germany’s Hannah Meul asserted herself as the second strongest woman on the circuit.
Brixen and Innsbruck
At both Brixen and Innsbruck, the final rounds came down to the last attempts on the last boulder. At Brixen, Meul lost gold to Grossman by a single attempt to Zone and tonight, she lost by only two attempts to Top.
In both events, Grossman and Meul each climbed all four problems and remained within throwing distance of the podium across each of the event’s three rounds. Their performances do lack the same impervious consistency Garnbret exhibited in her pre-finals rounds, however, their performance in the final speaks to their ability to persist in a manner unique from the competition.
While Garnbret will remain difficult to defeat, the season exposed two athletes who may be able to shake her in the 2023 Season. Although Grossman’s consistency was known, her experience to execute problems with limited attempts showed how she operates under pressure. She maintained her head and earned five consecutive gold medals. It is worth noting she earned silver to Garnbret.
However, this new season of experience strengthened the American. She battled the pressure that comes with being the favourite and won uninterrupted. What’s more, the woman who followed her is within attempts of Grossman’s ability.
Progression in the Women’s Category
Although the difference between two athlete’s attempts is an ineffective instrument by which to measure ability, this was often shown between Grossman and Garnbret last season, it is somewhat useful over the span of multiple competitions.
The fact that Meul and Grossman each scored the same number of Tops perhaps better describes their abilities relative to one another, especially when compared to the rest of the field. They each secured four Tops, as Miho Nonaka took bronze with two Tops. The rest of the field secured, at best, a Top and a Zone.
Such a disparity comes, in part, from the fact that Nonaka is climbing with an injury. Even with that considered, presuming that Nonaka could have climbed all four boulders seems unsupported by her performances from the last two years. Even if she did score all four Tops, the difference between the Top of the finals category and the bottom is surprising.
In the same round, Grossman and Meul were nearly inseparable, while the rest of the category could barely touch at least two of the boulders.
Grossman Wins the Series
Although her win of the Boulder World Cup Series was assured as late as Brixen, today’s victory affirms her title and victory. Her Boulder World Championship victory last summer appears more than well defended in this year’s World Cup Series. What’s more, Grossman joins men’s athlete Colin Duffy in America’s total victory of the Innsbruck Boulder World Cup.
Lead Begins Tomorrow
With all of the excitement from the Boulder World Cup diffusing, many will turn their heads to the remainder of the World Cup season. Innsbruck will host the first Lead World Cup tomorrow and Janja Garnbret will return to competition.
Speed and Paraclimbing will also persist over the remaining months of the season, with the second round of the Innsbruck Paraclimbing World Cup having only concluded days ago. More on that to come.
1 – Natalia Grossman (USA)
2 – Hannah Meul (GER)
3 – Miho Nonaka (JPN)
4 – Futaba Ito (JPN)
5 – Chaehyun Soe (JPN)
6 – Saki Kikuchi (JPN)
Featured image by Jan Virt photography.