Without a shadow of a doubt Grindelwald hosted the best IFSC World Cup of the year so far.
China put on a great event but the great firewall of China really hindered the viewing pleasure of the broader audience and saw it slip into second this year. So what did Grindelwald have that made it so much better? For me, it had 3 things.
Grindelwald had a great field with every (currently uninjured) big name in bouldering present including those who sat out the first 2 flyaway rounds. We welcomed back Tito and Melissa Le Neve from France, Sean McColl from Canada and a whole swag of Europeans making their 2014 debut including super strong Italian, German and of course Swiss teams.
Grindelwald had amazing setting. With great angles and a plethora of holds and volumes the setting team created a diverse range of problems including dynos, the now seemingly standard on wall run and jumps and compression masterpieces. Although some did question the jumpy nature of the problems they did a great job of separating the field with every round having 3 star problems that really allowed the climbers to put on a show.
Lastly Grindelwald had drama! For an athlete to have such a stellar run through semi-finals as Jernej Kruder did, only to miss isolation and not be able to compete in the finals was huge. Jernej looked devastated and understandably so. Fighting his way through the pain of a shoulder injury he was lucky even to be competing in Grindelwald, to see him sat disconsolate at the back of the stadium before finals was heart wrenching.
So what did Grindelwald give us as a competition? From the qualifications onwards it was a gripping event. Straight away there were upsets with a fit and psyched Sean McColl left outside the 20 and looking in. Indeed it was said, and rightly so, that you could have made a worthy finals field of the athletes failed to make Semi’s. On the women’s side it was much the same with several strong competitors like Britain’s Mina Leslie Wujastyk and France’s Fanny Gibert watching helplessly as some great performances lower down the starting list saw them slide from contention. Unfortunately women’s qualification also saw an injury to strong young Italian Annalisa DeMarco which could sideline her till Munich.
In the semifinals we saw some athletes who had put on amazing shows in qualification fade from contention. Struggling after looking superb in qualifications Swiss star Petra Klingler dropped down the order leaving local hopes pinned on young Rebekka Stotz who squeezed into the finals field alongside the big 5 of Anna, Akiyo, Alex, Jule and top qualifier for the finals Shauna Coxsey of Britain.
In the men’s Dmitrii reasserted himself after a relatively poor qualifying by his standards. His co-leader in the overall Jan Hojer who had looked great in qualifications just snuck in as time ran out with success on the last problem moving him to 5th and pushing resurgent veteran Gabriele Moroni out of the finals into 7th. It was also a strong round for the Japanese with Rei Sugimoto and Tsukuru Hori joining Austrian legend Kilian Fischhuber in making the cut. This left only Jernej Kruder who had looked strong in qualification but made the semifinals his own. And so the two fields of 6 were set.
As previously mentioned drama in Grindelwald was spelt with a J. On arrival to the hall to check the problems I was shocked to see a disconsolate Jernej walk in and sit at the back of the hall. What had happened? Had his shoulder finally given up on him? After a chat with the Slovenian manager it became apparent the Jernej had missed the closing time for Isolation by 6 minutes. This meant Jernej would not be able to take any part in the final round. This put a dampener on the finals as word spread around the crowd that unbelievably the star of semifinals was out. Of course in climbing competition everyone knows you must make Isolation, what was done was done.
About the finals? Well to begin with all I can say is WOW! The problems were visually spectacular putting the climbers into scary positions well off the deck. Seeing judges quietly slip into positions they can spot a falling climber if required brings home how on edge these problems were. Of course the climbers were over big, high quality mats but committing moves equals big falls as Germany’s Juliane Wurm showed slipping from the finish hold of the women’s last problem.
For me there were two stars of the final round and one of them didn’t even make the podium!
Rei Sugimoto set the crowd alight with his entertaining climbing being the only climber to top men’s problem one then putting on an incredible show working out how to top men’s 3. Indeed, it was probably one of the slowest single problems to complete in World Cup History with 3 of the 5 climbers going significantly over 4 minutes. All this however only brought Rei to 4th place, one ahead of his countryman Tsukuru.
The men’s podium reflected the overall standings with Kilian climbing to 3rd overall after his second consecutive final, behind Dmitrii whole is on nearly twice as many points and also slightly further behind Jan who after squeaking into finals has edged slightly ahead of his main competition with 3 tops in 7 attempts.
The biggest standout of the weekend was young British climber Shauna Coxsey won her first IFSC World Cup. After being cruelly denied by a dab last week in Baku there was all the pressure coming onto Shauna as she came out to do the last problem. Throughout the final she had once again been up against the legendary Anna Stöhr and she had to top in 5 attempts to win! Everybody waited with baited breath, Shauna is very popular on the circuit and everyone has known a win was coming for a long time, would today finally be the day? Even her two biggest competitors Anna and Jule sat on the mats and cheered her on, showing the close bonds that tie so many in this sport.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now Shauna did take the victory sealing it on her 3rd attempt and finally getting to stand on the top step of the podium. It was a fantastic final where the boulders were hard, they split the field and only Anna who has been dominant for so long was able join Shauna in topping every problem.
Grindelwald stood as a fantastic IFSC Bouldering World Cup. Full credit needs to be given to the organizers who managed such a big field with very few hiccups and to the routesetters who gave us the World Cup we’ve been waiting to see.
This weekend, Innsbruck. Tune in to see how the climbers manage such a short turn around and if the famous Austrian energy can match last weekends Swiss precision.