Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret is unstoppable. She dominated at this past weekend's World Cup in Chongqing, China, amid sweltering temperatures. Commentator Charlie Boscoe noted that it might have been the hottest event in IFSC history. The event marked Garnbret's third bouldering victory this season.
Indeed, while Garnbret has won all of this season’s bouldering events—previously Meiringen, Switzerland, and Moscow, Russia—Chongqing saw her most impressive performance to date: She topped all boulders in the semi-final and final rounds, and never appeared flustered by the volume-heavy routesetting or infamous Chinese humidity.
Gallery: 16 Photos From the 2019 Chongqing World Cup
Wrapping up the broadcast, Boscoe was effusive in praise, noting that competition fans might be witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime talent: “People sometimes get tired of dominance, but certainly a lot of people I chat [with] say, ‘I love it with Janja, because I just want to see how far she can go, how many World Cups she can win…and how many records can she break?’”
Boscoe added that attending every one of Garnbret's World Cup victories has been the biggest privilege of his professional life. Praise is also due to the IFSC for always livestreaming the events and allowing fans around the world to witness Garnbret’s history-making career. Competition climbing is at an apex of fandom, and Garnbret is making the boom feel extra special.
But what made Chongqing one of the best World Cup events of recent memory was that Garnbret’s victory was just one of several compelling storylines that played out in the sticky, 93-degree heat.
YiLing Song continued her ascension as the queen of women’s speed climbing. The Chinese climber set a new world record (38:54 in the livestream) at Chongqing in an early heat against Poland’s Natalia Kalucka, posting a blistering time of 7.101 seconds. The previous world record was 7.32 seconds, held jointly by Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina and France’s Anouck Jaubert. With little time to celebrate after smashing the record, Song progressed through subsequent heats and beat Poland’s Aleksandra Rudzinska, the reigning speed world champion, to claim the gold medal. How long will it be until Song breaks the hallowed 7-second mark?
The men’s speed event was compelling in its own right. Early eliminations of France’s Bassa Mawem and Russia’s Aleksandr Shilov, two favorites, left the door open for newer names to top the podium. Indonesia’s Alfian Muhammad beat Kostiantyn Pavlenko to claim gold with a time of 5.970 seconds. Other impressive finishes included China’s QiXin Zhong with a blazing run of 5.618 seconds and compatriot ZhiXing Chen, who clocked 5.842 seconds in one heat. It can't be much longer before the men's record—5.48 seconds—is broken, too.
The United States team sent 10 competitors to Chongqing, and while none of them placed higher than 28 in Speed (Kyra Condie and John Brosler), the national squad has to consider the weekend a success. Ashima Shiraishi finished highest of the bunch, topping a dynamic fourth boulder of the semi-final round in an attempt that was unfortunately missed by the livestream camera. The top wasn’t enough to advance Shiraishi to the final round, but it did land her a ninth-place finish in the event—with Alex Johnson tying for 17 and Margo Hayes finishing in 19th. (Condie tied for 31 and Sienna Kopf finished in 37). The fact that multiple American women are consistently finishing in the top 20 this season bodes well for 2020 Olympic ambitions.
Nathaniel Coleman had the best weekend of the American men. He was the sole American in a tough semi-final round that saw few tops by any of the competitors. Coleman’s most noteworthy attempt came in the later portion of that round, when he grabbed but couldn't secure the slopey finish hold of the fourth boulder (1:55.27 in the livestream).
Although Coleman did not advance out of the semi-finals (and finished in a respectable 17), his style of climbing would have suited the abundance of coordination boulders in the final round. Of those competitors who did advance, the standout was France’s Manuel Cornu, who found himself in a back-and-forth battle for tops with Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki. The men’s field stayed close throughout the final boulder—a collection of geometric volumes that forced a crowd-pleasing launch to a tricky toe-hook. It was only after Narasaki and Cornu both failed to top the problem that scores were tabulated. Cornu was awarded the victory, edging out Narasaki by total attempts. Narasaki placed second, and Slovenia’s Anze Peharc finished in third. Americans Sean Bailey, Zach Galla, Drew Ruana, and John Brosler placed 27, 31, 43, and 83, respectively.
As the midway point of the bouldering season nears, several questions have come to light. The US athletes are getting closer to advancing to a final round—when and where might that happen? Who will it be?
Also, with fans’ collective gazes turned to the likes of Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi (who climbed well this weekend and placed second in the women’s division), Austria’s Jessica Pilz (who placed third—her first time making a bouldering World Cup podium), and Great Britain’s Shauna Coxsey (who seems to be back in top form but did not take part in Chongqing), there looms the biggest question: Can anyone stop Garnbret?
The competitors have little time to rest, with another World Cup competition for bouldering and speed taking place next weekend (May 3-5) in Wujiang, China. Stay tuned to Climbing.com for the livestreams and coverage.
- Janja Garnbret (SLO)
- Akiyo Noguchi (JPN)
- Jessica Pilz (AUT)
- Petra Klingler (SUI)
- Futaba Ito (JPN)
- Katja Kadic (SLO)
- Manuel Cornu (FRA)
- Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)
- Anze Peharc (SLO)
- Sascha Lehmann (SUI)
- Alexey Rubtsov (RUS)
- Kokoro Fujii (JPN)
- YiLing Song (CHN)
- Aleksandra Rudzinska (POL)
- Iuliia Kaplina (RUS)
- Anouk Jaubert (FRA)
- Alfian Muhammad (INA)
- Kostiantyn Pavlenko (UKR)
- Sergey Rukin (RUS)
- QiXin Zhong (CHN)
Missed an event? Catch up on the 2019 competition season here.