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Following three World Cup lead events in as many weeks, patterns are beginning to emerge.
At the start of the weekend’s event in Briançon, France, one revelation was the phenomenal consistency that the Austrian team has had this season, with standout competitors Jakob Schubert and Jessica Pilz looking stronger than ever, each holding victories in previous competitions. The boulderers have been less successful, who are dabbling in lead as preparation for the Olympics. In fact, no boulderers aside from Japan’s have posed much of a threat to the lead contingent so far, though all-arounders like Akiyo Noguchi and Janja Garnbret continue to perform at the top of the pack. Finally, there continues to be a theme of progress for U.S. Olympic hopeful Ashima Shiraishi, who is getting more comfortable and more confident with each successive event.
Gallery: 16 Photos From the IFSC Briançon World Cup 2018—Lead
Germany’s Alex Megos has a number of outdoor accomplishments to his name, including sends of numerous famed 5.15 climbs like La Rambla and Perfecto Mundo. However, until last weekend, he had never won a World Cup event. Here he eyes up the top hold during the Finals in preparation for a sideways lunge. Although unsuccessful, the attempted move marked a highpoint (45+) for the men’s field.
This year’s competition at Briançon took place in a new venue—the town’s Sports Center, notably bigger than the setting of previous year’s events. Here the women’s field—including the U.S. frontrunner Ashima Shiraishi in her trademark long, elaborately designed shorts—heads to the new center’s wall for the start of the Semi-Final round.
Japan’s Moe Yoshimura, pictured here heading onto the steeper section of the women’s Semi-Finals route, was one of the few competitors from her country to participate at Briançon. Big names like Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka were absent due to their participation in the Asian Continental Games.
Sweden’s Hannes Puman targets a screw-on catch amid the burly midsection of the men’s semi-finals route. He earned a respectable 14th place finish at Briançon. In addition to competing, Puman has recently been working on several outdoor projects at France’s legendary crag of Céüse with Germany’s Alex Megos.
For a brief time in the Semi-Finals, Sean Bailey of the United States held the highpoint (36+), but as the competition went on, it was not enough to advance to the next round.
With South Korea’s Jain Kim absent from Briançon for the Asian Continental Games, Seuran Han (pictured here) became that country’s best hope for a podium. Although she ultimately finished at 22nd and did not advance to the Finals, her adroit performance in Semi-Finals indicated that South Korea’s women’s team has some depth this season.
Canada’s Sean McColl, who previously lived in France, emerged from the isolation area to substantial applause from the French crowd—and commenced to reach a high point of 33+ on the wall in the Semi-Finals. The weekend marked McColl’s official return to lead competition at the World Cup level.
McColl approaches the headwall en route to his personal highpoint in the semi-final round. He missed some vital rests that previous competitors had utilized. It will be interesting to see if McColl, an undeniable circuit legend, gets back into the head of the pack as the season progresses.
Ashima Shiraishi makes her attempt on the semi-finals route as drizzly weather clears and the sun sinks lower in the sky. Shiraishi has looked strong and fluid in all of her World Cup climbs, and any ensuing event this season could see a gold medal performance from her.
Here, shrouded by the event lights at dusk in the Semi-Finals, Shiraishi deadpoints to a series of slopers on the headwall’s lip. The slopers would ultimately get her too pumped to reach the top, but not before she earned a place in the Finals.
Semi-Finals concluded with a stellar performance from Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret as the rain began again. Garnbret was not able to top the round’s difficult route, but her highpoint made a strong statement heading into the following day’s Finals.
Slovenia’s Domen Škofic had a chance to match—or best—Megos’s highpoint, as the entire men’s competition came down to the final move on the headwall. Škofic ultimately couldn’t snag the top, but he still finished the competition with a place on the podium.
Belgium’s Anak Verhoeven stabilizes herself with a heel hook as she progresses onto the headwall in the women’s Finals. Verhoeven has improved steadily with each competition this season, and her score of 46+ at Briançon was enough to nudge Shiraishi off the podium and earn Verhoeven a third place finish.
Garnbret tops out the women’s finals route, earning her second victory for the 2018 season. Her talent and ability were appropriately summarized by commentator Mike Langley, who said that Garnbret “never has a bad day, never has an off move, [and] never reads a sequence badly.”
Garnbret (center), victorious, with the other members of the women’s podium—Austria’s Jessica Pilz (left) with the silver medal, and Verhoeven (right) with the bronze.
Although France’s Romain Desgranges (left) and Škofic (right) earned places on the podium, it was Megos (center) who stood highest at the end of the event—and was finally able to add a World Cup win to his already exhaustive climbing resume.
Shiraishi had a solid women’s qualifiers round on Friday morning, as did season favorite Janja Garnbret of Slovenia and a number of French competitors, including Hélène Janicot, Nolwenn Arc, and Manon Hily. In the men’s division, Qualifiers saw Sean McColl’s well-publicized return to the lead discipline. McColl, who has focused mostly on bouldering this year, admitted to being nervous at the start of the round but rallied for a smooth climb on his second route. Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi and Germany’s Alex Megos also wowed the crowd with strong performances.
By Friday evening, it was clear that the IFSC is in the midst of a generational shift. The men’s semi-finals lineup featured newcomers like Japan’s Taisei Homma, still a teenager, as well as veterans like Romain Desgranges—well into his 30s but showing no signs of depreciation. The key to success for all men on the burly semi-finals route of volumes and slopers was finding intermittent rests. 22-year-old American Sean Bailey was able to do this, and the commentators even noted how “incredibly comfortable” he looked on the wall’s steep midsection prior to falling. Although Bailey’s highpoint was not enough to advance to the Finals, it set an early bar for the ensuing competitors. McColl, similarly, did not advance, but he indicated at least being glad that a recent shoulder injury didn’t flare up.
The most impressive performance in the men’s Semi-Finals was that of Slovenia’s Domen Škofic, who managed his time well on the route despite not finding the strategic respite that the commentators called “the thank God kneebar.” Škofic fell a few moves shy from the top but, by advancing, kept alive his hope of reaching a podium for the first time this season.
Mina Markovič, Škofic’s Slovenian compatriot, climbed well in the women’s Semi-Finals. While there were reports that she got into a shouting match with her coach following Qualifiers, any lingering frustration was not evident; she appeared focused before getting pumped on the headwall. In fact, three other Slovenian women advanced to the Finals along with Markovič—Vita Lukan, Mia Krampl, and Garnbret.
On commentary, Charlie Boscoe and Mike Langley wondered whether Shiraishi’s short stature would pose a problem for the reachy moves on the women’s semi-finals route. However, not only did Shiraishi cruise through the crimps of the midsection without any issues, she employed a high heel hook to smoothly move beyond the lip of the headwall—a spot that had proven to be a crux for previous competitors. By the time Shiraishi pumped out on the open-hand slopers near the route’s top, Boscoe and Langley were wondering whether the subsequent Finals would see Shiraishi’s first-ever World Cup event victory.
The men’s Finals got underway on Saturday night with an enjoyably old-school route: no funky handholds or requisite body contortions, just a lot of crimps prompting resistance-style movement up the wall. Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann and Japan’s Hiroto Shimizu proceeded through a lower section of football-shaped volumes but struggled in the field of large yellow volumes farther up. Ghisolfi, fresh off his victory at Chamonix the week before, made it higher but fumbled with a quickdraw clip and could not pull through the headwall’s crimpy traverse.
The route’s traditional style suited Megos, who has outdoor sends of old-school classics like Biographie and Hubble. He moved effortlessly through the yellow volumes that had stymied other competitors, smeared at the top as he worked through the headwall’s crimps, and barely missed sticking the sideways lunge for the top (1:03:02 in the livestream). It was a remarkable effort that the last competitor of the heat, Škofic, could not match. Megos’ highpoint of 45+ thus marked the decorated German’s first win on the World Cup stage. Second place went to France’s Desgranges. Bailey’s 10th place finish was the highest of the American men, with Kai Lightner at 41 and Drew Ruana rounding out the top 50.
Markovič kicked off the women’s finals route, a sequence of connected wedge-shaped volumes, with an impressive performance. She used a wide right foot to get her body nearly horizontal (2:02:34 in the livestream) on the lip of the headwall. Her score of 39+ wasn’t enough to earn a medal, but it showed marked improvement from previous events this season. Shiraishi followed Markovič, but succumbed to a big move off an undercling sloper. She finished in fourth place, as she had at Chamonix the week prior. A spot on the podium continues to elude Shiraishi, but her consistency thus far—she’s made Finals in every event she’s competed in—has been impressive.
The women’s Finals became a nail-biter after Austria’s Pilz topped the route with two competitors still on deck. Belgium’s Anak Verhoeven was not able to duplicate Pilz’s top, which left the door open for the last climber—Garnbret—to pursue victory. Under the spotlights, Garnbret made easy work of the volume sequences, and when she dynoed for the top, she did so from an even lower foothold than the one Pilz utilized (2:39:08 in the livestream). Garnbret has won the overall title for the last two years, and another theme that has emerged this season is whether she’ll be able to repeat that outstanding feat. So far—with the victory at Briançon—she’s a contender. Of the American women beneath Shiraishi, Claire Buhrfeind placed 32, Sophia Kwon 50, Maya Madere 51, and Magie Hammer 62.
There was no Speed portion during the weekend, although a Paraclimbing Cup made its debut earlier in the week and featured a number of categories. It was marked by exciting performances from Great Britain’s athletes—particularly Abigail Robinson, who won the women’s Visual Impairment discipline, Matthew Phillips, who won in the men’s Forearm Amputee category, and Hannah Baldwin, who won one of the women’s RP (Limited Range, Power, Stability) disciplines. France’s Thierry Delarue earned a victory in the AL category as a leg amputee, as did his compatriot, Lucie Jarrige, in one of the RP events. Additional winners are listed below.
The IFSC’s World Cup blitz continues next week (July 27-28) with an event in Arco, Italy. See our 2018 Climbing Competition Calendar for the full schedule.
- Alex Megos (GER)
- Romain Desgranges (FRA)
- Domen Škofic (SLO)
- Jakob Schubert (AUT)
- Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA)
- Thomas Joannes (FRA)
- Sascha Lehmann (SUI)
- Hiroto Shimizu (JPN)
- Janja Garnbret (SLO)
- Jessica Pilz (AUT)
- Anak Verhoeven (BEL)
- Ashima Shiraishi (USA)
- Mina Markovič (SLO)
- Vita Lukan (SLO)
- Mia Krampl (SLO)
- Nolwenn Arc (FRA)
- AU-2: Matthew Phillips (GBR)
- Visual Impairment B1: Matteo Stefani (ITA)
- Visual Impairment B2: Giulio Cevenini (ITA)
- AL-2: Thierry Delarue (FRA)
- RP-1: Korbinian Franck (GER)
- RP-2: Behnam Khalaji (IRI)
- RP-3: Alessandro Neri (ITA)
- Visual Impairment B-2: Bigail Robinson (GBR)
- RP-2: Hannah Baldwin (GBR)
- RP-3: Lucie Jarrige (FRA)
Previous 2018 World Cup Events
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Meiringen World Cup 2018—Bouldering
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Moscow World Cup 2018—Bouldering and Speed
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Chongqing World Cup 2018—Bouldering and Speed
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Tai’an World Cup 2018—Bouldering and Speed
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Hachioji World Cup 2018—Bouldering
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Vail World Cup 2018—Bouldering
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Villars World Cup 2018—Lead and Speed
- Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Chamonix World Cup 2018—Lead and Speed