Big names on show in Innsbruck for the latest World Cup

June 30, 2021
Bouldering Centre in Kent on the Latest World Cup

Some of the world’s best climbers descended on Innsbruck last week to take part in a joint bouldering and lead World Cup. This is important for a couple of reasons, namely it is the final bouldering World Cup before the Olympics, and it is also a first chance to see how some of the Olympic hopefuls are stacking up on a lead wall this season.

There were some notable omissions – Shauna Coxsey didn’t travel for GB, and Jessica Pilz also missed the event as she continues to recover from a pulley injury.

The women’s field was still stacked with talent though, from the young American duo Brooke Raboutou and Natalia Grossman, who both did so well on home soil at the last two World Cups, to Olympic favourite Janja Garnbret.

While for the men’s side of the competition, Japan sent a full contingent with the likes of Tomoa Narasaki joined by Kokoro Fujii, Kai Harada and Rei Sugimoto. Adam Ondra was also in attendance, as were Alex Megos and Sean Bailey.

Lead came first, the finals taking place midweek and it was no surprise to see Garnbret win another gold, with Raboutou continuing her strong run of form with silver and Akiyo Noguchi getting bronze at what was her final World Cup – the stalwart of the Japanese climbing scene is set to retire after the Olympics.

The men’s competition had a few more shocks and twists, with heavy favourite Adam Ondra slipping off the lead wall at a very early stage and propping up the field in the finals. Jakob Schubert won on home soil to show that he is finding some form before the Olympics, with the podium completed by Stefano Ghisolfi and Sascha Lehmann, neither of whom are on the Tokyo start list.

Then at the weekend, it was all about the bouldering. The women were up first, but the final became a battle of conditions more than blocs when a heavy storm rolled through. Given this is an outdoor event, the holds were picking up moisture and sweating, hardly ideal and certainly adding an unwanted degree of difficulty. In the end the final had to be reduced to three blocs, and was won by the Queen herself, Garnbret, who flashed every bloc.

Natalia Grossman, who is in terrific form and can count herself unlucky to not be on a plane to Tokyo, was second with three tops but taking more attempts, while Stasa Gejo continued her strong recovery from a knee injury to take bronze – that injury derailing her own Olympic qualification plans and meaning she is also missing Tokyo.

The men’s final was heavily delayed by that weather system, and they had a hard time finding grip out there especially on the no hands slab problem. Again they were reduced to three boulders, and in the end Yoshiyuki Ogata won for Japan with two tops, ahead of one of the Olympic favourites Tomoa Narasaki, with Japan clean sweeping the podium as Kokoro Fujii took bronze. Watching the first men’s problem is strongly advised, with the beta found by Ogata pretty incredible.

With the Olympics now just a month away, there are a couple more opportunities for those going to get fully into competition mode with a Lead and Speed World Cup in Villars next weekend, and another chance at Lead in Chamonix on the weekend of the 12th July. Don’t expect that to be particularly full of big names though, with most of the Olympic hopefuls likely to already be in Japan getting acclimatised ahead of the Games.

Although the Olympic field doesn’t necessarily contain all the in-form athletes, given most of the qualifying slots were awarded back in 2019, it should still be an incredible event and something of a swansong for the likes of Coxsey and Aguchi. There could well be some late adjustments though, with Miho Nonaka unable to start the bouldering final in Innsbruck due to injury, and Pilz still struggling. Will they make it to the start line in Tokyo? Only time will tell.

The Olympics gets underway on Friday 23rd July with the Opening Ceremony, and the climbing competition begins with qualifiers on Tuesday 3rd August.

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