At this time last year, a couple of events into the World Cup circuit, everything about the women’s division was unsettled. Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret was still coming into her own as one of the all-time greats, and it seemed like the Japanese team had an answer for every impressive thing she did. Also, something did not seem right with Great Britain’s Shauna Coxsey. Usually a podium contender, Coxsey found herself often hovering uncharacteristically at the bottom of final round scorecards.

While it would take several more events for those storylines to sharpen and for the scene to settle (ultimately with Garnbret being declared the World Cup Combined champion, and Coxsey withdrawing from the circuit due to injury), the 2019 season appears to be gaining clarity. It possesses a similar storyline of Garnbret being dominant, but set on fast-forward. And make no mistake, this past weekend’s World Cup event in Moscow was all about Garnbret’s dominance: She flashed all five boulders in her qualification group, coasted through the semi-finals, and then, as if to offer a replay of her earlier highlights, flashed all the boulders in the finals. This all came just a week after Garnbret rallied to win the Meiringen World Cup event.

Such a strong start to the year—with back-to-back World Cup event victories—not only puts Garnbret in a prime position to win this season’s World Cup title, but to be first and foremost on anyone’s list of likely Olympians for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

As for Coxsey, 2019 is playing out like the inverse of her injury-plagued previous season; she is moving up the scorecards at every event. And in Moscow, she looked to be one of the few women who might give Garnbret a run for her money. Coxsey placed higher than Garnbret in the semi-finals and was in the lead by countback to previous rounds following a flash of the first boulder in the finals, a slanted progression along humongous half-disc volumes. It was not until the third finals boulder, which entailed holding a vicious barn door swing at a zone hold, that the competitors began to separate; Austria’s Jessica Pilz topped that boulder on her sixth attempt, France’s Fanny Gibert topped it on her third attempt, and Coxsey topped it on her second attempt. But Garnbret, with a flash, pulled away.

Perhaps Coxsey not shaken the psychological residue of her past shoulder and finger ailments. As an illustration, commentator Charlie Boscoe noted that Coxsey’s abundance of micro-foot movements on the first boulder in semi-finals might be due to her being overly cautious with her movement. But in that regard, if Moscow offered a version of Coxsey that is still finding some mental moxie and improving, it is possible that a showdown with Garnbret later this season will be one for the ages.

The men’s division at Moscow did not seem to be quite as pre-destined. There was no competitor who served as a dominant counterpart to Garnbret, but the uncertainty added to the weekend’s drama. Slovenia’s Jernej Kruder ruled the men’s qualification round, but it was the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra who looked unstoppable in the semi-finals by topping all the boulders. Ondra’s flashes of the first two boulders in the finals—including finding a subtle kneebar to sneakily move around an arête on the first one—put him in a solid position.

But Kruder never relented—and also topped the boulders to keep the scores tight.

In the end, Kruder’s high-octane top of the fourth boulder, a burly compression sequence along a gigantic prism-shaped volume, was a feat that not even Ondra could match. It was enough to give Kruder the win, and Ondra had to settle for second place. Japan’s Yoshiyuki Ogata, a young standout on a Japanese team with astonishing depth, placed third.

The weekend also featured the start of the Speed season. World record-holder Reza Alipourshena of Iran was upset early in the men’s division and finished in 7th place. France’s Bassa Mawem beat Russia’s Vladislav Deulin in a blazing time of 5.73 seconds for the men’s win.

In the women’s Speed division, China’s YiLing Song beat France’s Anouck Jaubert in a tight race to claim the victory with a time of 7.38 seconds.

It’s worth noting that, traditionally, the US competitors have not shined at the Moscow World Cup, but there were some impressive American performances throughout the weekend. Of the ten competitors from the United States, Kyra Condie and Natalia Grossman advanced to the bouldering semi-finals in the women’s division and placed 16 and 17, respectively. Sienna Kopf tied for 21, Alex Johnson tied for 25, and Sierra Blair-Coyle placed 45. In the men’s division, Zach Galla placed 27, Drew Ruana placed 41, Joe Goodacre placed 49 (and 20 in Speed), Josh Levin placed 70, and John Brosler placed 74.

The competitors will get a weekend break before heading to China for the Chongqing World Cup competition (Bouldering and Speed) on April 26-28. Stay tuned to Climbing.com for the livestreams and coverage.

Results

Women’s Bouldering

  1. Janja Garnbret (SLO)
  2. Shauna Coxsey (GBR)
  3. Fanny Gibert (FRA)
  4. Lucka Rakovec (SLO)
  5. Jessy Pilz (AUT)
  6. Futaba Ito (JPN)

Men’s Bouldering

  1. Jernej Kruder (SLO)
  2. Adam Ondra (CZE)
  3. Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)
  4. Anze Peharc (SLO)
  5. Rei Kawamata (JPN)
  6. Vadim Timonov (RUS)

Women’s Speed

  1. YiLing Song (CHN)
  2. Anouck Jaubert (FRA)
  3. Iuliia Kaplina (RUS)
  4. Anna Tsyganova (RUS)

Men’s Speed

  1. Bassa Mawem (FRA)
  2. Vladislav Deulin (RUS)
  3. Aspar Jaelolo (INA)
  4. Long Cao (CHN)

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