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Qualification in Kranj Filled with Surprises

The Kranj World Cup has the Slovenian team climbing well, but Garnbret falls surprising far from first in qualification

This morning saw the beginning of the first World Cup since the Olympic Games. With the historical event behind the world’s greatest athletes, focus shifted back toward the World Cup season continuing in Kranj this weekend.

Janja Garnbret – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

The two-route qualification event began with the men, each of whom aimed to make one of the top 26 spots required for semi-finals. Although the men’s competition featured numerous strong contenders, not a single Olympian decided to compete in the day’s event.

What makes today’s competition interesting, primarily boils down to those that did decide to compete. Although neither Ondra nor Ginés López climbed in Kranj, the top-end of the field featured numerous World Cup winners that could beat either Olympian in competition.

To begin, Great Britain showed up in form today taking both Billy Ridal and Jim Pope to Semis. Both boulderers have trained hard this season for lead. Their 14 and 20 placements reflected their effort.

Although qualified in 16 place, Japan’s Masahiro Niguchi could become a challenging opponent in the upcoming rounds. His general consistency between routes makes him a perpetually strong competitor. With that said, his seventh placed teammate Zento Murashita also stands to climb well taking a Top and 36+ to earn his position.

Domen Skofic – photo by Jan Virt

In this qualification round, Tops would be seen all the way down to 14 position. All but two of the top 14 athletes would top at least one of the two qualification routes. This level of ability should make for an exciting semi-final.

Furthermore, team Slovenia qualified four climbers for the semi-final round. Even the bottom three of these four climber seem competitive. Slovenia’s Milan Preskar, Martin Bergant, and Luka Potocar hold positions 10 through 12. The sequentially placed competitors show the significance of a tightly knit team. Although ranked lower than competition’s favourites, it seems that all three athletes climbed consistently enough to score within a position of one another. Depending on the route tomorrow, these athletes could have a dominating run in semis.

Making up the bottom of the top eight, American Sean Bailey climbed to a Top and 36 holds. He fell just short of Murashita, but retained his consistency.

Stefano Ghisolfi – photo by Jan Virt

Bailey has pulled down medal after medal in these last World Cups and has become a favourite to watch for that very reason. Another climber worth watching is Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi.

Ghisolfi climbed as well as Japan’s Ao Yurikasa, a young athlete who only competed in his first World Cup this past June. He and Ghisolfi followed the Slovenia’s Domen Skofic and Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann both of whom earned first for topping the qualification routes.

Although the men’s field did not feature a single Olympian, the women’s field saw several.

Jessica Pilz – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

Austria’s Jessica Pilz, Italy’s Laura Rogora, Korea’s Chaehyun Seo, Slovenia’s Mia Krampl and her teammate Janja Garnbret all competed and qualified for semis in today’s event.

The most obvious surprise from the round came from the fact the Olympic Gold Medalist did not qualified for semis in first position. Although this statement speaks more to her ability than otherwise, it is surprising that four athletes ultimately surpassed the World Champion.

Still, Garnbret concluded her competition in fifth position with Krampl. As in the men’s field, the Slovenian women climbed side-by-side today in terms of ranking. This appears to show the strength of a team-focused approach to training.

Although it will surprise few to know that Italy’s Laura Rogora and Korea’s Chaehyun Seo each topped both qualification routes, both of their consistent performances in these last World Cups show that the women’s field has narrowed in its separation. This is further evidenced by Japan’s Mei Kotake who would tie the Olympic leaders with tops of both qualification routes. Although Garnbret’s combined proficiency appears difficult to beat, cracks have formed in her seemingly insurmountable ability.

Chaehyun Seo – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

In fact, Russia’s Dinara Fakhritdinova also out-climbed the Slovenian with a top and a score of 34+. She ultimately took fourth in qualification despite her limited experience in the World Cup circuit. Like Yurikasa, Fakhritdinova only climbed her first World Cup in this summer. To outqualify Garnbret so rapidly speaks to her ability. To do so with such little experience suggests that Fakhritdinova has potential.

Although the Garnbret-beating climbers do make for an interesting story, several other athletes climbed a strong round this afternoon. American Natalia Grossman has become the most consistent contender against Garnbret in both Boulder and Lead, showing the Garnbret is not the only climber to compete well in multiple disciplines. Grossman has shown the most consistency aside from Garnbret this season.

Outside of the top seven, Japan’s Momoko Abe and Great Britain’s Molly Thompson-Smith will join Slovenia’s Lucka Rakovec and Vita Lukan. Positioned 9, 11, 10, and 8 respectively, these women further display the depth of the field. Although Japan’s Miho Nonaka decided against competing in today’s event, few top-level lead climbers appear missing from the women’s field.

The almost inseparable women’s field will see a challenging semi-final and final early tomorrow morning.

The semi-final begins at 3:00 am EST.

Men Advancing to Semis

1 – Domen Skofic (SLO)

1 – Sascha Lehmann (SUI)

3 – Ao Yurikusa (JPN)

3 – Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA)

5 – Jorg Verhoeven (NED)

6 – Mathias Posch (AUT)

7 – Zento Murashita (JPN)

8 – Sean Bailey (USA)

9 – Sebastian Halenke (GER)

10 – Milan Preskar (SLO)

10 – Martin Bergant (SLO)

12 – Luka Potocar (SLO)

13 – Yannick Flohé (GER)

14 – William Ridal (GBR)

15 – Martin Stranik (CZE)

16 – Masahiro Higuchi (JPN)

16 – Satone Yoshida (JPN)

18 – Taito Nakagami (JPN)

19 – Fedir Samoilov (UKR)

20 – James Pope (GBR)

21 – Marcello Bombardi (ITA)

22 – Sam Avezou (FRA)

23 – Christoph Hanke (GER)

24 – Alberto Gotta (ITA)

24 – Nao Monchois (FRA)

26 – Giovanni Placci (ITA)

Women Advancing to Semis

1 – Laura Rogora (ITA)

1 – Chaehyun Seo (KOR)

1 – Mei Kotake (JPN)

4 – Dinara Fakhritdinova (RUS)

5 – Mia Krampl (SLO)

5 – Janja Garnbret (SLO)

7 – Natalia Grossman (USA)

8 – Vita Lukan (SLO)

9 – Momoko Abe (JPN)

10 – Lucka Rakovec (SLO)

11 – Molly Thompson-Smith (GBR)

12 – Hannah Meul (GER)

13 – Jessica Pilz (AUT)

14 – Salomé Romain (FRA)

15 – Ryu Nakagawa (JPN)

16 – Lana Skusek (SLO)

17 – Sara Copar (SLO)

18 – Nolwenn Arc (FRA)

18 – Tomona Takao (JPN)

20 – Julia Fiser (AUT)

21 – Lucija Tarkus (SLO)

22 – Camille Pouget (FRA)

23 – Michelle Hulliger (SUI)

24 – Roxana Wienand (GER)

25 – Natsuki Tanii (JPN)

26 – Anne-Sophie Koller (SUI)