Grossman qualified for finals in fourth after failing to fire women’s three. The powerful compression block brought the world champion down behind first, second and third-place-qualified athletes Ayala Kerem, Brooke Raboutou, and Miho Nonaka.
Israel’s Kerem climbed a strong competition earning four of four tops. Kerem has a history of strong performances that are spaced by less successful world cup events. Her abilities to perform are unquestionable, but fending off Raboutou, Nonaka, and Grossman will prove difficult. Both Raboutou and Nonaka joined Kerem in four tops of four semi-final boulder problems, but Grossman retains the title of favourite.
Consistency is more important than single-day performances and, as such, Grossman’s unimpeachable trend as a gold or silver medallist makes her the most likely to win today’s final event. With that said, Grossman did appear more fatigued today than usual.
She was not alone, season favourites Oriane Bertone, Camilla Moroni and Stasa Gejo all failed to make finals. Instead, Japan’s Futaba Ito reasserted herself on the final stage and Korea’s lead World Champion Chaehyun Seo qualified for Boulder finals in fifth position. Seo became the event’s darkhorse the second she qualified, but her methodical movements put her close to the podium.
The men’s field also featured a surprising series of events with Team USA’s Sean Bailey, Zach Galla, and Colin Duffy each failing to make finals. Instead, Ross Fulkerson qualified in fourth earning his first World Cup finals and his best ranked competition score in a Boulder event. His previous best placed him in 10 last week. He too will hope for podium with the added benefit of nothing to lose.
Such lightheartedness will only be a small advantage against first and second placed athletes Kokoro Fujii and Yoshiyuki Ogata. Fujii is the Boulder World Champion and Ogata is the most consistent medallist of the 2022 men’s World Cup Series. Rounding off the podium, Slovenia’s Anze Peharc, Japan’s Rei Kawamata, and Korea’s Jongwon Chon each have a shot at podium, but only Chon has a realistic shot at gold.
Kawamata earned his first World Cup medal last week, but Chon has more power than most anyone in the field. To defeat both Ogata and Fujii takes an incredible amount of strength. Ogata retains his position as the round’s favourite, but Fujii is the stronger climber. Fujii struggle with certain beta on certain boulders, however, so his path to podium is not certain.
The setting in the men’s and women’s category at this event has been fantastic, with setters prioritizing the show that comes along with a high number of tops.
Women Advancing to Finals
1 – Ayala Kerem (ISR)
2 – Brooke Raboutou (USA)
3 – Miho Nonaka (JPN)
4 – Natalia Grossman (USA)
5 – Chaehyun Seo (KOR)
6 – Futaba Ito (JPN)
Men Advancing to Finals
1 – Kokoro Fujii (JPN)
2 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)
3 – Anze Peharc (SLO)
4 – Ross Fulkerson (USA)
5 – Rei Kawamata (JPN)
6 – Jongwon Chon (KOR)
Featured image by Daniel Gajda.