Home > Indoor Climbing

Team Japan Dominates Semis at Seoul World Cup

An incredible Seoul World Cup semi-final returns Team Japan's Men's Boulder Season to their throne as the women's field deepens.

Despite his early entrance to the field, Canada’s Oscar Baudrand styled the start of the second Boulder World Cup semi-final of 2022. After punting the opening problem, the teenager skyrocketed to the top of the men’s field with two Tops and three Zones. The stage was set. Would he be able to hold out against the world’s best climbers? (Result report below)

Victor Baudrand

After placing 19 from the qualification round, Buadrand became only the second climber to take to the mats in the Men’s category. He sustained nearly two hours of tension as Team Japan began to chip away at his semi-final ranking.

In the end Baudrand finished his competition in ninth, just three places out of finals. This result marked improvement from last month’s 35-place result and showed Baudrand to be one of the most promising Combined athletes on the Canadian team. He even out climbed Canadian Olympian Sean McColl, a man who won Team Canada’s bouldering High Performance Competition in advance of the World Cup Season. McColl also had a strong competition, but could not piece together enough boulder problems to make finals.

Baudrand would have carried on to finals if he had managed to secure the Top on M1 or the Zone on M4 with one less attempt to Top on either M2 or M3. Although this hypothetical conversation could be made to support many athletes, it is worth noting that the young Canadian climber was just outside finals. This speaks well for Team Canada, especially considering that the season has just begun.

With Canada’s performance sorted, it becomes easier to appreciate the results of the semi-final competition.

Women’s Semi-Final

In the women’s field, Garnbret’s absence was felt both by the spectators and the competitors. On one hand, it was exciting to know that some other athlete will win gold. However, Garnbret’s impeccable track record was an extremely entertaining element of the 2021 World Cup Series and the 2022 Meiringen World Cup.

Natalia Grossman by Dimitris Tosidis

Furthermore, her absence appeared to influence the difficulty of the women’s boulders from what we saw in Meiringen. This correlation may not be causally linked, but Meiringen semi-final averaged fewer Tops than Seoul’s. In this semi-final, World Champion Natalia Grossman and World Championship silver medalist Camilla Moroni each attained four Tops and were separated by attempts.

To her credit, Moroni earned her four Tops with a committing ascent of W4. With seconds left, the Italian crimped the thin plastic edges guarding the Top and secured her second-place qualification.

Although the boulders appeared easier than in Meiringen, they still required an almost unbelievable number of attempts. Even Grossman required 10 attempts to Top all 4 boulder problems.

The consistency of the women’s field appears to be increasing. Most would have bet on the other four competitors heading to finals. The only surprise was Mia Aoyagi, a Japanese competitor making a name for herself in Seoul. American Brooke Raboutou, France’s Oriane Bertone, and Serbia’s Stasa Gejo all found themselves in yet another final, cementing their dominance in the field.

With that said, a few athletes showed the depth of the women’s field also increasing. After an underwhelming finish in Meiringen, Miho Nonaka improved over 30 places by talking eighth in this weekend’s competition. What’s more, Americans Cloe Coscoy and Kylie Cullen each climbed well for the second World Cup in a row. They finished 10 and 11 respectively and further represented the developing strength of the women’s category in the United States and the world.

To that effect, Raboutou climbed an exemplary semi-final moving from 16 to fourth in this evening’s competition. It seems like Raboutou could have a break through, but one wonders at the level of fatigue this athlete has gone through. Of the Olympians in finals, only Raboutou remains competitive in the World Cup circuit. All others have retired, fallen short of finals, or abstained from this last World Cup.

Men’s Semi-Final

In the men’s field, Team Japan dominated. Five of the six competitors who made finals represented Team Japan, continuing the streak from the Meiringen World Cup where the team’s Tomoa Narasaki  and Yoshiyuki Ogata earned the gold and silver medals.

Only France’s Paul Jenft stands in opposition to the Japanese team. After such a mixed season last year, it is incredible to see Japan operate at such a high level. With Ondra and others breaking up the nationalities found in last year’s World Cup finals, Japan lost control of the podium. Today, it seemed as though they reasserted themselves as the world’s best bouldering team.

With that said, Colin Duffy’s absence from the Seoul World Cup afforded Japan at least one of those final spots. Still, it will be interesting to see if Japan holds this 2019-like level of skill in the upcoming competitions.

Furthermore, Tomoa Narasaki appears on form this year. He will enter finals in first position after an incredible ascent of a long and physical M4. Although he lacked some of the consistency, he may have wanted for in last year’s series, he appears back to his old self with his dominating performance.

There is a feeling after the Moscow World Championships that Fujii Kokoro is the strongest boulder on the World Cup Circuit, however, Narasaki’s technique remains dominant for now.

Narasaki’s brother Meichi Narasaki also made finals in third position following a precise performance. His results are impressive, as is Keita Dohi. Dohi is a lesser known, but equally strong presence on the Japanese Boulder Team, and one to watch in finals

Finals will begin at 4:00 am ET.

Women Advancing to Finals

1 – Natalia Grossman (USA)

2 – Camilla Moroni (ITA)

3 – Mia Aoyagi (JPN)

4 – Brooke Raboutou (USA)

5 – Oriane Bertone (FRA)

6 – Stasa Gejo (SRB)

Men Advancing to Finals

1 – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)

2 – Kokoro Fujii (JPN)

3 – Meichi Narasaki (JPN)

4 – Paul Jenft (FRA)

5 – Keita Dohi (JPN)

6 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)

Featured image of Kokoro Fujii by Dimitris Tosidis