These last five days saw each of Sport Climbing’s three disciplines take to a continental stage. Among the many athletes competing in this week’s competition, a few stood out among the rest.
Tonight’s Boulder Final followed this morning’s Semi-Final and the previous days’ Qualification and Speed events.
Speed fired off quick with numerous athletes competing from the sport’s many disciplines. The Qualification round saw strong results from women Kaitlyn Bone and Norah Chi, two boulderers quick enough to compete for Final’s top spot.
Although national record holder Emma Hunt dominated the competition, the fact that other top-tier American climbers have interest in Speed speaks to the growing professionalism of climbing in the United States. With a competitive focus geared toward performance and less toward disciplines, athletes have made great strides toward improving their weaker skills.
Whether or not this trend, in Speed, will persist, remains unclear. Although many athletes have shown themselves of great ability, becoming strong in Speed and another discipline remains difficult.
This thought describes itself most clearly through the best times from the Qualification round. While a person might expect speed specialist Emma Hunt to outpace her peers, the disparity in their times appears almost unbelievable. Where Hunt ran a best time of 7.91 in the Qualification round, second placed athlete Bone would run a 9.11. Take this a little further and the speed begins to decay. Chi, third place in qualification, ran a 9.73. Fourth placed Ella McRitchie ran a 10.4. This result becomes more startling in the Final results.
Despite a series of quick runs, Hunt would lose out to Chi in the last race of the Final round. Due to the head-to-head format of the event, Chi would climb to gold with a time of 9.24 seconds. By comparison, each of Hunt’s previous times in the Final clocked less than 7.71 seconds.
In some ways this format makes sense. In running, gold does not automatically go to the record holder. Instead, it goes to the person who runs the best on the day. While this remains true in climbing, Speed offers the issue of falling. This technical aspect does make the seemingly estranged cousin of boulder and lead appear more closely related. With that said, it also makes it appear different from most any other race-based discipline.
While a sprinter might fall, a speed climber has to overcome several head-to-head qualifying events to make it to the final run of a competition. In Albuquerque, Hunt had to run three times without falling before the final race. Despite her previous run clocking around 1.45 seconds faster than Chi’s best time, the result would place Hunt in second. Of course, these are the rules of the game, but it does make for some interesting results.
By comparison, the Men’s field offered a different sort of excitement. Although John Brosler does hold the US record, Joe Goodacre and Micah Liss came within around 0.7 seconds of Brosler’s qualification time.
Aside from earning themselves second and third positions, they showed that several strong Americans have the capacity to throw down on the Speed wall. Speaking to the previous point regarding perfection, even Brosler ran a DNF (Did Not Finish) in Qualification.
To his credit, Goodacre refuted the point regarding proficiency and discipline. Despite his bouldering ability, having made Finals for Boulder just this evening, Goodacre ran quick times that present him as a strong all-rounder. What will become interesting will be that which he ultimately decides to commit to.
With that said, Finals made for fast-paced heart wrenching display of power. Canadian Brandon Barraclough made Speed Finals in Albuquerque, but competed in his first head-to-head against Brosler. Brosler ran a 6.15 securing his victory.
Eventually, most everyone would fall away until Brosler and Goodacre squared off once in the final race. Brosler ran a 5.56 securing both his victory and a new national record. Goodacre suffered a slip after an impressive round culminating in a quickest time of 6.21 seconds. Still, in his final run, Goodacre failed to break eight seconds.
Speed continues as an almost undeveloped discipline in Canada and could see further movement with the help of Team Canada’s HPP Coach Libor Hroza. For now, Americans Hunt and Brosler dominate the field as Canada works to develop its competitive climbing team.
1 – Norah Chi
2 – Emma Hunt
3 – Kaitlyn Bone
1 – John Brosler
2 – Joe Goodacre
3 – Silas Chang