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Slovenia Dominates Kranj World Cup

The home-field advantage has earned Slovenia a strong position heading into Finals; however, Team Japan will not be overlooked.

Slovenia has dominated the 2021 IFSC Kranj World Cup. Although finals remains, the home-field advantage, in conjunction with the general strength of the team, provides challenging barrier for the other athletes to overcome. Still, Slovenia’s competition is composed of Olympians and the Japanese Team. It will not be easy.

After a strong World Cup and Olympic season, Janja Garnbret has returned to competition. Although some have suggested that the Slovenian may have rested through this World Cup if it took place outside of her home country, Garnbret has shown up in form.

Yesterday’s qualification event saw the gold medalist land in fifth position with teammate Mia Krampl. She fell behind Olympians Laura Rogora and Chaehyun Seo, both of whom proved themselves over this summer’s competitions. To that effect, Japan’s Mei Kotake and Russia’s Dinara Fakhritdinova also out-climbed the Slovenian. Still, none of these athletes have Garnbret’s consistency.

Unlike some of the World Cups of the past, climbing did not appear easy for Garnbret today. Instead, she climbed methodically and moved through to the top position. Although she has secured the lead thus far, the pressure remains high for the Olympic Champion.

Just behind her, Italy’s Rogora climbed three holds behind the Slovenian to secure second. The powerful route might have out-powered the Italian, but her endurance will prove useful in the Final round of competition.

Joining them, Korea’s Seo maintains her consistency with a sixth place qualification. She and the athletes surrounding her all fell within a hold and a move of one another. Where eighth placed Natsuki Tanii from Japan scored 34+, third placed Vita Lukan earned 38+. Both Rogora and Garnbret scored a minimum of six holds beyond that. This shows both the narrow nature of the field as well as the strength of the best.

American Natalia Grossman climbed a strong competition as well. She earned fourth place, ultimately splitting Slovenia’s Lukan and Lucka Rakovec. Slovenia’s home-field performance in Kranj has an almost heart-warming effect for the spectators.

As with any home-field competition, the athletes appear accustomed to the style of climbing. In both the men’s and women’s fields, the routes feature grip intensive movements that require power, strength and power-endurance, with minimal subtilty. Although the fibreglass nature of the routes does make for an amount of uncertainty, it appears that the climber who holds on the longest makes it to the top. With that said, neither route afforded much opportunity for rest.

In the men’s field, Slovenia represented once again. Although the strength of the Slovenian team makes it difficult to actually feel surprise based on their performance, the fact that three men made the top eight speaks to their desire to make finals in front of their home crowd.

Luka Potocar, Milan Preskar, and Domen Skofic claimed second, sixth, and eighth respectively. Skofic has a strong chance of earning first if he can maintain his head game through the final round. With that said, the Slovenian has admitted to the difficulty of maintaining that clarity in the later rounds.

The most spectacular display of climbing appeared to surprise even the commentators. As mentioned yesterday regarding qualifiers, Masahiro Higuchi shows consistency unlike most any other. While this consistency does not always end in podium, it does earn him a solid position in most every competition he competes in. Today, it earned him first heading into finals.

Although the camera panned away during his climb, the lead specialist moved efficiently through the physical style the men’s route. By comparison, American Sean Bailey and Italian Stefano Ghisolfi, generally renowned for their consistency, fell out of Finals after hard runs.

Still, the largest upset of the competition ultimately went to Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann who fell from first to 26 with an unlucky attempt on the semi-final route.

While the field has seemed nationally varied over these last months’ competitions, it seems that Team Japan and Team Slovenia have begun to reassert themselves as leaders in the sport. In some ways, it is too early to make this call as many athletes did not compete in this week’s World Cup. Still, each country will take three athletes to the men’s final. Of the 16 spots in finals split across both gender categories, these two countries account for 10 of the athletes. Of those, six are Slovenian.

Finals will begin today at 11:55 am EST.

Women Advancing to Finals

1 – Janja Garnbret (SLO)

2 – Laura Rogora (ITA)

3 – Vita Lukan (SLO)

4 – Natalia Grossman (USA)

5 – Lucka Rakovec (SLO)

6 – Chaehyun Seo (KOR)

7 – Dinara Fakhritdinova (RUS)

8 – Natsuki Tanii (JPN)

Men Advancing to Finals

1 – Masahiro Higuchi (JPN)

2 – Luka Potocar (SLO)

3 – Sebastian Halenke (GER)

4 – Satone Yoshida (JPN)

5 – Fedir Samoilov (UKR)

6 – Milan Preskar (SLO)

7 – Ao Yurikasa (JPN)

8 – Domen Skofic (SLO)

Featured image of Janja Garnbret by Dimitris Tosidis.