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Three for Three, Japan Sweeps the Podium

Team Japan clears the entire podium in a dominating World Cup performance at the 2022 Seoul World Cup

This weekend went to Japan. Despite the rain and rounds and competition, the Japanese Team did not slow down over the length of this weekend’s event. Their result harked back to pre-pandemic levels of dominance that may persist over the length of 2022. The weekend’s Seoul Boulder World Cup acted as a litmus for the men’s field as it did the women’s. The result appears to favour this Japanese Team.

Kokoro Fujii by Dimitris Tosidis

Although each of Japan’s eight semi-final-qualified athletes could have made the final, only five earned their portion of those coveted spots. France’s Paul Jenft qualified in fourth and became the only non-Japanese competitor in the final. Although Tomoa’s younger brother Meichi Narasaki and his teammate Keita Dohi climbed well, the main story of this morning went to the three powerhouses of Japanese bouldering: Tomoa Narasaki, Kokoro Fujii, and Yoshiyuki Ogata.

Ogata led the competition with low attempt ascents of the opening three boulder problems. As such he held the lead for the majority of the competition until he fell on a physical and technical M4. This left the door open for his teammates to make their way to the top of the field.

As the rain picked up, officials paused the competition to try and dry the wall that had begun to seep. After a small amount of time, the rest of the field tried the physical M4, but none could make it further than Ogata. Fujii came out next and showed immense strength but dropped the problem twice. The long and taxing boulder seemed like it would be too difficult to try three times in four minutes and yet, as the clock ticked down, the World Champion finished the boulder and slid into first place.

Tomoa Narasaki was next, but he would have to Top in two attempts if he wanted to earn another gold medal. Although he won gold in Meiringen, the level of Ogata and Fujii make it difficult to call Narasaki the favourite. Narasaki is arguably the most consistent, but Ogata is more powerful and Fujii is stronger. As such, predicting victors among these three is difficult.

Yoshiyuki Ogata by Dimitris Tosidis

Narasaki pulled onto the wall and fell almost immediately. On two other attempts he slid from the fibreglass left hand. It almost seemed that the hold was wet or that the humidity had reached some sort of dew point. In either case, Narasaki pulled back onto the wall with only a minute left. Squeezing hard through the opening sequence he proceeded to flash the top section of the climb. He secured Zone and chose a unique crossing beta to conclude the problem. In the end, he earned second by attempts.

Although France’s Jenft did not make the podium, the 18-year-old climbed well and has become a favourite for men’s finals on the World Cup circuit. He and Schalck are a unique pair with differing betas, but similar proficiency for competition style. They certainly appear to be improving, and seem like intimidating competitors for events such as the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

With that said, Japan has not left a lot of room for other people on the podium. Winning gold means outclimbing some of the physically strongest competitors on the circuit. If, however, the style becomes more technical, these younger climbers may have an edge on their Japanese peers. What’s more, the Japanese team is getting older.

However, the current, style appears very power-based and less coordination focused than in years past. As such, Japan may retain the lead for the season. It will be interesting to see how the setters choose to present the upcoming back-to-back Salt Lake City World Cups set for later this month.

Result

1 – Kokoro Fujii (JPN)

2 – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)

3 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)

4 – Paul Jenft (FRA)

5 – Meichi Narasaki (JPN)

6 – Keita Dohi (JPN)

Featured image of Tomoa Narasaki by Dimitris Tosidis.