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Recap and Photo Gallery: IFSC Chamonix World Cup 2018—Lead and Speed

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The Chamonix World Cup began like an extension of the preceding event in Villars, Switzerland. While most stops on the circuit entail extracontinental travel, massive time zone adjustments, and significantly different rosters, the close proximity of Villars and Chamonix—and the fact that the two events were held less than a week apart—meant that most of the competitors didn’t need to fall out of their respective grooves…no jetlag, no visa headaches, no hotel pull-ups. Instead, they could coast from one competition’s isolation booth to the other’s.

Chamonix also offered a chance for a redo, or at least a little redemption for those competitors that hoped for better starts to their lead season. Chief among these was the United States—only one American, Ashima Shiraishi, advanced to Finals at the season’s first Lead event. And the Chamonix event also promised more opportunities for bouldering powerhouses like Germany’s Jan Hojer, Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi, and Canada’s Alannah Yip to prove that they could perform equally well on a rope.

Couple those storylines with a sizeable crowd of spectators and the luminous backdrop of Mont Blanc, and suddenly the little pit stop of Chamonix seemed bigger than merely the second round of a seven-event circuit. Once the qualifying round got underway on Thursday, the competition in the iconic mountain town felt like a big deal in its own right—a historic happening in a place where, well, historic climbing things happen.

Gallery: 12 Photos From the IFSC Chamonix World Cup 2018—Lead and Speed

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

Often cited as the birthplace of climbing—or at least the birthplace of climbing culture—Chamonix, France, annually features one of the most sizeable crowds of the World Cup circuit. Estimates had this year’s turnout at 15,000 spectators.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

Belgium’s Anak Verhoeven exhibits laser focus while working her way through the lower section of the women’s Lead Semi-Finals. The climb eventually earned her a spot in Finals—and a little redemption after she had uncharacteristically missed Finals the week before in Villars. 

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret approaches the Semi-Finals crux just beneath the headwall. Already one of the most decorated Lead competitors in IFSC history at just 19 years old, Garnbret is looking to add even more medals to her resume this year. She won the season’s inaugural competition in Villars, and ultimately finished in second place at Chamonix.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

South Korea’s Jain Kim made her World Cup debut at Chamonix in 2004 and has since become a legend of competition climbing. Here she nears the headwall in this year’s Finals as the sun sinks behind the mountains. She would fall just three moves from the top and earn a third place finish.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

The feet of Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi cut away as the crowd cheers during the Chamonix Finals. Ghisolfi would find enough rest to recompose himself and muscle through the upper crux—eventually winning the event and continuing an impressive start to his 2018 season.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

Germany’s Alex Megos is perhaps most famous for being the first climber to ever onsight 5.14d, which he did in 2013 on Estado Crítico in Siurana, Spain. He tends to downplay his interest in competition climbing, despite being among the best in the world when he does choose to compete. Here he works through the large pocket section of the Finals route on his way to a third place finish.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

The winner of a close women’s Lead event, Jessica Pilz of Austria (center), shares the podium with second-place finisher Janja Garnbret of Slovenia (left) and Jain Kim of South Korea (right). Pilz, a former youth competitor with numerous junior championship wins, now adds a World Cup victory to her long list of climbing accomplishments. 

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

It was a close Lead Finals for the men, with all the separation occurring on the headwall. In the end, it was Stefano Ghisolfi of Italy who topped the route and stood highest on the podium. Here he is flanked by second place finisher Jakob Schubert of Austria on his left, and Alex Megos of Germany on his right. 

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

Poland’s Aleksandra Rudzińska celebrates following her win over Russia’s Anna Tsyganova in the women’s Speed Finals. It had been six years since Rudzińska’s last win at a Chamonix World Cup event.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

At Chamonix, Russia’s Dmitrii Timofeev (red, right) improved considerably from his eleventh place finish in Villars. Here he gets narrowly beaten by Ukraine’s Danyil Boldyrev (yellow, left) in the final men’s heat.

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

The winner of the women’s Speed Finals: Poland’s Aleksandra Rudzińska tops the podium, while Russia landed in second and third with Anna Tsyganova (left) and Mariia Krasavina (right).

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© IFSC/Eddie Fowke

The winner of the men’s Speed Finals, Ukraine’s Danyil Boldyrev (center) celebrates on the podium with Russia’s Dmitrii Timofeev (left) and France’s Bassa Mawem (right). Boldyrev’s last World Cup in Chamonix was in 2014. 

The crowd favorite of Qualifiers was Romain Desgranges who, despite being a Chamonix local, has never won a World Cup there. Spectators at the onset of the event also seemed excited to watch Germany’s Alex Megos, who debuted at the Chamonix World Cup event in 2009 but has only participated intermittently at major competitions since then. The Netherlands’ Jorg Verhoeven, another beloved competitor, continued his bumpy start to the 2018 season in the qualifying round, failing to progress to the successive rounds and ultimately finishing in 34th place.

Shiraishi climbed well on the first day, as did her American compatriots, Sean Bailey and Claire Buhrfeind. Buhrfeind thus began her World Cup season with high expectations, as she is the reigning national champion in both Sport (Lead) and Speed. However, on the whole, the United States was bested by Japan, Austria, and Slovenia—each advancing multiple competitors near the top of the field.

The semi-final round got underway the following day with a women’s route that mixed a volume-heavy start with a pumpy upper section of slopers. Buhrfeind, touted aptly by commentator Charlie Boscoe as “a genuine all-arounder,” climbed well but popped off the wall at the midway point. She finished the competition in 19th place—not enough to advance to the Finals. Shiraishi fared better, advancing to the Finals for the second time this season. Korea’s Jain Kim, an IFSC veteran and one of the most decorated competitors in history, also cruised through to the Finals, as did Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret and Austria’s Jessica Pilz.

One of the unanticipated success stories of the men’s field in the Semi-Finals was that of Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann, who enlivened the crowd by progressing from a pocket hang into a figure-4 (57:54 in the livestream). (The relatively uncommon move—for lead—was also utilized at the previous week’s competition at Villars, by Jain Kim.) Showy as it was, the figure-4 helped Lehmann advance to the Finals. Italy’s Stefano Ghisolfi chose a different method for that tricky sequence, finding secure outward placements for his feet, and achieved a highpoint at the end of his attempt. Bailey finished in 10th place, missing Finals by only two spots but improving significantly from his 30th place finish at Villars. Megos and Austria’s Jakob Schubert also had strong performances in the Semi-Finals.

The Finals kicked off on Friday night with a quirky women’s route—hold manufacturer Cheeta’s boomerangs arced to a large crack feature, with a few spots certain to wow the crowd with feet cutaways. Shiraishi was methodical in her attempt and made some hurried progress on the headwall as her time ticked down (26:30 in the livestream). The climb earned her an eventual fourth place finish. Austria’s Hannah Schubert and Noguchi both struggled with clips and couldn’t match Shiraishi’s high point. Kim employed some impressive high feet through the crack feature (42:08 in the livestream). Both she and Garnbret surpassed Shiraishi’s high point and nearly topped the route, earning scores of 48+ and 50+, respectively. But the victory eventually went to Pilz, who managed her time expertly on the wall and gave the cheering crowd the field’s sole top (1:16:37 in the livestream). It marked Pilz’s first-ever World Cup Lead win. Even more impressive was Pilz’s admission after her victory that she was under the weather—use that anecdote the next time your partner is complaining of a slight cold and tries to cancel on you.

Following Pilz’s emotional send, the men’s portion of the Finals began with a number of newcomers, including Japan’s Shuta Tanaka and Great Britain’s William Bosi. Each competitor progressed fluidly through a lower section of red volumes and blue “baguette” handholds before pumping out midway up the wall. Lehmann could not find the same flow that he possessed in Semi-Finals. Ghisolfi, on the other hand, read the route perfectly and never appeared troubled by the myriad power moves high on the wall. He clinched the top and the win with a spectacular slam dunk lunge (2:13:30 in the livestream)—a move that none of the successive competitors would match. Schubert eventually placed second with a score of 48+, and Megos placed third with 46+.

The event’s Speed portion was rife with false starts. At one point, the commentators even wondered out loud if there was a problem with the start pad. (There was not.) A favorite in the women’s division, Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina, was one such competitor disqualified for false-starting. France’s Anouck Jaubert was also eliminated surprisingly early, making room for an eventual win by Poland’s Aleksandra Rudzińska with a time of 7.47 seconds. Buhrfeind, at 27th, was the only American woman who placed. Ukraine’s Danyil Boldyrev had the fastest time in the men’s division at 6.08 seconds. It was not Boldyrev’s smoothest run, but it was enough for him to earn his first World Cup gold medal since 2014. John Brosler, at 19th, was the only American to finish in the top 20.

The next IFSC World Cup event will take place in Briançon, France, on July 20-21. See our 2018 Climbing Competition Calendar for the full schedule.

Results

Women’s Lead

  1. Jessica Pilz (AUT)
  2. Janja Garnbret (SLO)
  3. Jain Kim (KOR)
  4. Ashima Shiraishi (USA)
  5. Mei Kotake (JPN)
  6. Anak Verhoeven (BEL)
  7. Akiyo Noguchi (JPN)
  8. Hannah Schubert (AUT)

Men’s Lead

  1. Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA)
  2. Jakob Schubert (AUT)
  3. Alex Megos (GER)
  4. Domen Skofic (SLO)
  5. William Bosi (GBR)
  6. Shuta Tanaka (JPN)
  7. Taisei Homma (JPN)
  8. Sascha Lehmann (SUI)

Women’s Speed

  1. Aleksandra Rudzińska (POL)
  2. Anna Tsyganova (RUS)
  3. Mariia Krasavina (RUS)
  4. Aurelia Sarisson (FRA)

Men’s Speed

  1. Danyil Boldyrev (UKR)
  2. Dmitrii Timofeev (RUS)
  3. Bassa Mawem (FRA)
  4. QiXin Zhong (CHN)

Previous 2018 World Cup Events