It took the entire first half of the 2019 season, but at last weekend’s lead World Cup event in Chamonix, France, American fans got to experience the euphoria of seeing the US team represented in the final rounds of competition. Most noteworthy was Ashima Shiraishi, whose performance during the 2019 bouldering world cup circuit saw her place well at times (for instance, 9th in Chongqing, China, and 23rd in Vail, Colorado) but never quite in the highest tier. Yet if those bouldering placements whet the appetites of Shiraishi’s fan base, Chamonix offered the main course. First, Shiraishi climbed methodically on a long semi-finals lead route that rewarded smart pacing. Then, in the final round, she nearly progressed to the headwall and fell trying to stick hold number 35, a dynamic stab at a screw-on jib (26:15 in the livestream). Many other finalists, including Austria’s Jessica Pilz, China’s YueTong Zhang, and Japan’s young phenom Ai Mori also fell while jabbing for the same hold.

Shiraishi’s final score of 34+ earned her a fifth-place finish. But in the midst of her strong showing, another major storyline was playing out. Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, who had won the previous weekend’s lead competition in Villars and was on climbing’s equivalent of an undefeated streak for 2019, failed to advance out of the semi-finals. Garnbret’s surprising absence in the finals at Chamonix left the door open for a new face to stand atop the podium. Assuming the mantle was South Korea’s Chaehyun Seo, the 15-year-old standout who has suddenly emerged as a major player on the IFSC’s adult scene. In the finals, Seo could not stick that tricky reach to hold number 35 either, but she was declared the winner by countback to the semi-final placements in light of the competitors’ bottleneck.

Seo’s victory gives the women’s division an unanticipated jolt as the first Olympic qualification event, the Combined World Championship, approaches next month. Fans can now speculate how Garnbret will recover from the disappointment of a loss—something she has not had to do yet this season. And since Seo has done consistently well in the past two lead World Cup competitions, it is fair to wonder if she might become the main challenger to Garnbret’s throne as this season marches on.

Rounding up the scores for the rest of the US athletes in the women’s division, Margo Hayes placed 18, Brooke Raboutou tied for 28th, Kyra Condie tied for 32nd, and Sienna Kopf placed 88th.

Ondra Looks Better Than Ever

The men’s division also gave onlookers (who packed the streets of Chamonix in the thousands) plenty of competition spectacle. The finals route for the men was a 50-move progression on slopey, spherical volumes that tested competitors’ dyno skills as well as their flexibility. Germany’s Alex Megos kicked things off by opting for the splits at the wall’s midsection (1:27.38 in the livestream). The crowd audibly winced, but Megos appeared relaxed and unperturbed by the big move. He continued to look solid until his right foot slipped six holds shy of the top, expressing frustration as he lowered. Later in the round, Austria’s Jakob Schubert elegantly worked himself into—and out of—an upside-down position amid a series of pyramid-shaped volumes. 

Despite those jaw-dropping showcases of physicality, the final round belonged to the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra. He climbed last and seemed unfazed by the wrist injury that kept him out of action the previous weekend. Not only did he duplicate Schubert’s inverted beta on the pyramid-shaped volumes, but Ondra chalked up while upside down (2:07.21 in the livestream). Ondra came closest to topping the route and earned a score of 47+. It solidified his first lead World Cup victory of 2019. He also won a bouldering World Cup event at Meiringen several months ago, indicating that he is in top-form for the unique combined format that will be used at the impending Olympic qualifying events. 

Although no American man made it to the finals, Nathaniel Coleman finished the competition in 12th. Sean Bailey placed 24th, Zach Galla placed 35th, Drew Ruana tied for 59th, and Jesse Grupper tied for 67th.

Brosler Races into the Finals

The other American standout of the weekend was John Brosler, who advanced to the finals in the speed portion. There, Brosler found himself in an early heat against China’s Long Cao and won after Cao slipped. Brosler’s next heat was against former speed world record holder Danyil Boldyrev of the Ukraine. Unfortunately for fans wanting an exciting race, Brosler was disqualified for a false start. But his eventual finish of 8th place was impressive and the fact that he finished next to France’s Bassa Mawem and Russia’s Sergey Rukin in the scores puts Brosler in the company of the very fastest climbers in the world.

The eventual winner of the men’s speed division was Indonesia’s Alfian Muhammad—his second speed victory of the 2019 World Cup season. China’s YiLing Song won the women’s division after her opponent, Russia’s Elizaveta Ivanova, false-started. The disqualification did not make for the most thrilling speed finals for the women, but Song—who holds the world record—continues to have one of the best speed seasons of any competitor in history.

There is a lot of upcoming competition action. The Paraclimbing World Championships kick off this Tuesday (July 16) in Briançon, France, followed by another lead World Cup event there this weekend (July 19-20). And the first Olympic qualification event, the Combined World Championships, starts next month (August 18-21). Stay tuned to Climbing.com for the livestreams and coverage of various competitions.

Results

Men’s Lead

  1. Adam Ondra (CZE)
  2. Alex Megos (GER)
  3. Jakob Schubert (AUT)
  4. Will Bosi (GBR)
  5. Alberto Ginés López (ESP)
  6. Martin Stranik (CZE)
  7. Sean McColl (CAN)
  8. Kai Harada (JPN)

Women’s Lead

  1. Chaehyun Seo (KOR)
  2. YueTong Zhang (CHN)
  3. Jessica Pilz (AUT)
  4. Ai Mori (JPN)
  5. Ashima Shiraishi (USA)
  6. Molly Thompson-Smith (GBR)
  7. Lucka Rakovec (SLO)
  8. Natsuki Tanii (JPN)

Men’s Speed

  1. Alfian Muhammad (INA)
  2. QiXin Zhong (CHN)
  3. Vladislav Deulin (RUS)
  4. Danyil Boldyrev (UKR)

Women’s Speed

  1. YiLing Song (CHN)
  2. Elizaveta Ivanova (RUS)
  3. Aleksandra Kalucka (POL)
  4. Aries Susanti Rahayu (INA)

Missed an event? Catch up on the 2019 competition season here.