Kaito Watanabe stands before the packed stadium of Montreal’s 2019 Bloc Shop Open. His arms swing, skin cooling against the circulating air. Chalk explodes onto the scene. The crowd is restless. A moment passes. Pressing, he is on the final problem of the competition. He knows that Canadian Olympian Sean McColl could not finish it. Pushing hard into his left foot and right hand, he mantels in an overhang.

Lifting hips high into the air, his left hand comes out. To those watching, he has just flashed a move dropped by McColl. Firing to a Blue Pill Fiber Impression, he swings to a similar jug far away in the overhang. Breathing, Kaito takes in the zone. It is far away, surely too far to campus. Generating momentum, Kaito swings his hips to stick a toe-hook on a Dimension volume four feet away. He exhales knowing that this will be the hard part. Pulling in on his left hand, Kaito locks off his left arm while reaching with his right to the very same Dimension. Stretching, pulling, he sticks the volume. Bumping his right hand to reach the zone, the crowd erupts.

The move McColl could not come close to, Kaito has flashed. Lowering his feet, he tenses, scumming his knee against the friction of the volume. Matching his left hand on nothing but an angle change, Kaito surfs up to grab the second to last hold before falling short. As seconds pass he is back on the ground. The crowd shakes in applause.

The lights go out and brushers take to the stage. Flecks of white drift down from the massive volumes. Turning, defending champions Kyra Condie and Mikael Mawem look to see their blocs. Mikael descends upon his fourth and final boulder. Cruising through the beginning of the problem, Mikael sorts himself on the toe-hook before he too has flashed to the zone hold. The crowd holds their collective breath as Mikael sets a toe on the Blue Pill he holds with his left. Creating oppositional tension, he matches and is quickly on the second to last hold. Cutting the toe-hook, Mikael’s left foot matches his right, before he lifts his right to a jib screwed into the volume by his hand. His height, which seemed like an advantage throughout the entirety of the problem, now hinders his progression. Unable to get his foot higher, he falls. Like Kaito, Mikael is unable to attain the finish.

Simultaneously, Kyra is greeted by a bicep-tearing first sequence on her final boulder. Pulling hard through Dimension under-clings, Condie moves easily through the first sequence. Standing hard on a smear, Condie slaps out to a Blue Pill Fiber Impression 11. Skin tearing, she holds the compression, and, generating with her hips, attempts to stab out right to a volume smear. Unable to stick the extended sequence, she bares a smile, and cores up to static the difficult move.

Glued to their monitors, staff and members huddle around the live stream in gyms across the country. No longer is it anyone’s game, but still the championship goes on undecided. Kaito looks strong with two flashes, a top, and a flash to zone, but Yoshiyuki Ogata is the recognized favourite of the competition. With one flash and two tops, he has to finish the final problem to defeat Kaito. Meanwhile, Kyra will have to send her boulder to even have a chance at retaining her title.

Pressing hard with her toe, Condie begins the second crux. Straining against the difficult sloper, she aims to match. Slamming under, Condie pulls hard, but is on the mats instead of the match. Giving the sequence a second burn, Condie flies through the beginning, nearly sticking the match, before the towel is thrown and Swiss climber Petra Klinger is out on the field.

With Kyra only securing two flashes and no additional zones or tops, Petra Klinger has already nailed herself into second position, trailing Miho by an attempt on problem one. Similar to Kyra, the final problem will decide the Swiss climber’s fate. Pulling onto the start, Klinger looks controlled. Moving methodically from one hold to another, she swings into the match, holding a two-arm lock on the pancake foot. Locking deep on Kyra’s crux hold, Klinger reaches the zone, sticking the slopey Blue Pill. Matching feet on the pancake, her right foot comes off into a toe hook on a further box. Sticking the toe hook, she seeks the match, core tension failing before the move. Unable to reach the same high point, the lights, once more go out.

Returning with a flash, the lights click on. Miho Nonaka and Yoshiyuki Ogata are out on the field. The round begins and Ogata approaches the boulder with intent. What would have seemed to be the same beta as Kaito quickly turns to a fully dynamic, horizontal moon-kick to the first Blue Pill. Climbing easily through the second Blue Pill, Yoshi begins to generate for the zone hold. Suddenly, his biceps explode in a single powerful campus movement. Reaching the zone hold he appears to touch it for a moment, but falls immediately. Without a flash of the zone, he knows that he must finish the boulder. With Kaito’s flash of problem one, problem three, and the zone on problem four, not to mention his completion of problem two, he is a difficult competitor to beat. For the first time in the competition, the pressure is on Yoshi. He takes a minute to collect himself, even brushing his own holds. Once more the crowd is on edge. Which of these competitors can take home the title?

In the Female category, Miho takes to boulder one immediately, walking the seemingly difficult moves that so readily shook off her contemporaries. Flashing to the zone, the competition is hers, but, not knowing the results from Petra’s attempt, the zone is not enough. Throwing for the final hold, Miho misses and is back on the pads.

As though on queue, Yoshi leaps back to the wall as she falls. Chalking, he pulls hard onto the start holds and crushes the first move. Cutting loose, he swings out and climbs through to the second hold. Maintaining his beta, Yoshi campuses to the zone again, clamping down on the terrible hold. Bearing down, Yoshi sets the same toe-hook as Mikael and slaps the sloper above him. Moving quickly, the audience is barely given a chance to appreciate the power, as Ogata places the high foot that kicked Mikael off the boulder. Sinking low, the man generates and sticks the final hold, kicking his feet out towards the crowd.

In much the same fashion Miho is back on the wall, and fires the problem with ease. The concluding result leaves Japan with both first place positions as well as a second place position in the male category. The conclusion of the 2019 Bloc Shop Open brought an end to the most exciting installment in the competition’s history.

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