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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
Ashima Shiraishi of Team USA assumes the starting position for an early run in the speed climbing heats. Although Shiraishi is not known as a speed specialist, her times have been improving. She clocked a run of 12.34 seconds in Chongqing and finished 61 for the Speed portion.
Germany’s Jan Hojer en route to clocking a time of 6.763 seconds for his speed climbing run in Chongqing. Hojer finished in 27, an improvement on his placement of 36 (and time of 7.016) for the Speed portion at the Moscow World Cup competition just a couple weeks ago.
China’s YiLing Song (center, in the red jacket) has taken the Speed Climbing world by storm this season. Not only did Song win the gold medal at Chongqing, she also set a new world record (7.101 seconds). Pictured next to her on the podium here are Poland’s Aleksandra Rudzinska (left, silver medal) and Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina (right, bronze medal).
Indonesia’s Alfian Muhammad (center) was the winner of the men’s Speed portion. Here he is flanked by the Ukraine’s Kostiantyn Pavlenko (left) and Russia’s Sergey Rukin (right), who placed second and third, respectively.
The United States’ Kyra Condie nearly sneaks in a clever kneebar while fighting her way up a steep boulder of geometric volumes. Condie finished in a tie for 31. Although American fans did not have the pleasure of watching Condie compete in the finals at Chongqing, they could hear her provide commentary for the semi-final round alongside IFSC broadcasting mainstay Charlie Boscoe.
Japan’s Futaba Ito is becoming a name often mentioned with Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka—the two longtime standouts of Japan’s female squad. Ito was stellar in the various rounds at Chongqing and advanced to the finals, where she finished in fifth place.
Canada’s Sean McColl takes an aerial tumble during the qualification rounds. McColl finished tied for fifth in his qualification group, and 14 for the competition overall. It was his highest placement this season. His compatriot, Alannah Yip, also finished high—eight in the women’s division.
Iran’s Elnaz Rekabi works her way through a collection of volumes to latch the disc-shaped zone hold. Rekabi finished the competition at Chongqing in 13.
Shiraishi progresses up an aesthetic line of round volumes bedecked with tiny jibs—the significant overhang of the wall evident by the shadows.
Austria’s Jakob Schubert presses off a round volume with his forearm and ponders how to advance to the next large hold. Schubert finished the competition in 18—far from his usual place near the top of a given field, but he managed to secure two zone holds in the semi-final round. He also competed in the Speed portion, placing 40 and clocking a time of 7.167 seconds.
Israel’s Alex Khazanov controls his swinging feet while sticking the slopey upper section of a spherical volume. Khazanov finished the competition at Chongqing in 16, sandwiched in the scores between South Korea’s Jongwon Chon (15) and the United States’ Nathaniel Coleman (17).
After taking a break from the World Cup circuit, Australia’s Oceana Mackenzie was back in Chongqing. Mackenzie received a lot of attention with an impressive sixth place finish earlier this season in Meiringen, Switzerland. In Chongqing, she finished in 45.
The success of Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi has been overshadowed this season by that of Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, but Noguchi has been incredible in her own right. She placed second in Meiringen and second at Chongqing. Like Garnbret, she topped all the boulders in the final round at Chongqing.
South Korea’s Jain Kim is one of the most decorated lead climbers in the history of the sport, so it is easy to overlook the fact that she is also a great boulderer. She advanced to the semi-finals at Chongqing and finished the competition in 20.
Japan’s Rei Sugimoto gets horizontal, latching a minuscule crimp. He finished the competition in 7—just one spot below his compatriot Kokoro Fujii.
In a weekend of intermittent rain, brutal heat, and a new speed climbing world record, much of the buzz still revolved around Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret. She has won every World Cup competition so far this season and is becoming the most dominant force competition climbing has ever seen.
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.