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Our article 10 Climbers Who Could Go Very, Very Big This Year explored some of the biggest names heading into the 2022 World Cup season, which begins on April 8 in Meiringen, Switzerland. But there are many other competitors that also merit close consideration and observation; some feel like they are on the cusp of greatness, having shown previous hints and glimmers of being able to hang with the best, while others have been on the circuit for a while and seem primed for a breakout year. So, here are 10 more climbers that we’re hyped for as the clock ticks down to the year’s first World Cup event.
How can you survey Duffy’s 2021 season and not be stoked for an astounding 2022 World Cup season? Last year he placed 7th at the Olympics and won USA Climbing’s Bouldering National Championship a few months later. He also made the podium at the Villars Lead World Cup in 2021. As those results indicate, he’s equally adept at Boulder and Lead, and this was equally evident just weeks ago when he qualified for the bouldering and lead (and combined bouldering-and-lead) national teams at USA Climbing’s 2022 Team Trials. Duffy has to be considered a favorite for making a World Cup podium this year in at least one of those disciplines, if not a favorite to take home a gold medal.
Alberto Ginés López
Even the most casual climbing fans probably know of Spain’s Ginés López. He was the Olympic gold medalist in the men’s division, and he has been showered with praise and publicity ever since—most recently with a nomination for the World Games’ Athlete of the Year. However, many fans might not realize that he has yet to win a World Cup event on the adult circuit. The closest he has come in recent years was placing second at a Lead World Cup in Inzai, Japan, in 2019. Depending on one’s angle, that either makes Ginés López overdue for a World Cup win this season, or now perfectly primed to parlay his Olympic success into World Cup glory. Regardless, he is one of the biggest names in competition climbing right now, and all eyes will be on him this year.
It’s hard to recall a rookie competitor who had more hype than France’s Oriane Bertone had heading into the 2021 season. She had long ruled the youth circuit (with accolades that included Youth World Championship gold medals in both Boulder and Lead) and had garnered comparisons to a young Janja Garnbret. In light of that, it was fun to watch Bertone live up to some of the early hype, silence any skeptics, and earn silver medals at World Cups last year in Meiringen and Salt Lake City. She came close to earning a gold medal on a number of occasions and finished the season ranked third overall—quite a statement for a competitor who was still just 16 years old. Fans have every reason to believe she has continued to improve in the off-season, which means this year will likely be even greater for Bertone.
Great Britain’s team basked in the spotlight last year, in large part because of Shauna Coxsey. Coxsey, 27 years old at the time, was part of the Olympics and her entire year was treated like a well-deserved retirement tour—one final trip on the merry-go-round of the World Cup circuit before the legend headed off into the figurative sunset. It was all fine and good, but hardly anyone expected Coxsey’s 19-year-old British teammate, Hamish McArthur, to create significant buzz of his own. In July, 2021, McArthur took part in a pair of World Cups in France and finished in 29th place and 19th place—perfectly respectable. But then he went on a tear, clinching multiple first place finishes at the Youth World Championships and concluding his season with a bronze medal in Lead at the (adult) World Championships in Moscow. It’s clear McArthur was on a big upswing when last year’s season concluded. If he managed to maintain that momentum throughout the offseason, it’s likely he’ll wear even more medals in 2022.
It felt special when Indonesia’s Kiromal Katibin broke the men’s speed climbing world record in a qualifying run at Salt Lake City last May. Scratch that—he didn’t just break the world record, he shattered it, chipping more than 0.2 seconds off of the previous record (which had stood virtually unchallenged for nearly five years). But within hours, Katibin’s historic run of 5.258 seconds was outdone by his compatriot, Veddriq Leonardo—who set a new world record of 5.208 in the finals at Salt Lake City. It’s easy, then, to think of Katibin’s brief world record as more of a footnote than a landmark moment, but it shouldn’t be remembered that way. If anything, it means that Katibin will likely be aiming to make history again in 2022, chasing down his teammate and good friend Leonardo in a record-race for the ages. Get the popcorn ready—if they meet again in a Speed heat, it’s likely the world record will get shattered again.
31-year-old Jakob Schubert of Austria is already a legend on the circuit. He has been winning adult-level World Cups since 2009. Most recently he won the Lead portion of last year’s World Championships and medaled at the Olympics. But in 2022, Schubert finds himself in a unique position; he is at an age when most competitors start to see diminishing returns in their event results. Consider that the aforementioned Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain retired at the end of last season at age 27, four years younger than Schubert. To be clear, Schubert has given no indication of slowing down, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be stellar again this season. But his age is an X-factor and gives his name a lot of extra intrigue and curiosity.
At 22 years old, Slovenia’s Slemenšek is in her statistical performative prime this World Cup season, and she has a solid resume: Her highest international finishes last year were a 4th place finish (in bouldering) at the European Continental Cup, and an 11th place finish (in lead) at the Briançon World Cup. Those indicated some steady improvement from her results at adult-level events in previous seasons. But Slemenšek also has a unique X-factor, in that her best friend and main training partner is Olympic gold medalist and six-time World Champion Janja Garnbret. That has to count for something, as one can imagine the type of insight and wisdom Slemenšek has acquired over the years from grueling training sessions with Garnbret the Great. It feels like Slemenšek is prepped to be a marquee name on the circuit, and this could be her year.
While Americans Natalia Grossman, Brooke Raboutou, Sean Bailey, and Nathaniel Coleman were crushing on the international circuit last year, Melina Costanza was garnering serious buzz nationally. She earned acclaim in USA Climbing’s National Cup series and capped her season with a national championship in bouldering—and nearly won the national championship in Lead. It felt like something of a comeback year for Costanza; a veteran of competition and an alum of the famed Vertical World team, she had chosen to focus more on college in recent years than high-level competitions. But she’s clearly back now, and better than ever. In terms of formality, she recently earned spots on the United States’ lead, bouldering, and lead-and-bouldering combined teams at the National Team Trials, so all eyes will certainly be on her to see how she does on the upcoming World Cup circuit.
The Czech Republic’s Adamovska shocked the world last year when she won the Lead World Cup in Briançon, but it’s not like she came out of nowhere. A compatriot of Adam Ondra, she had previously earned some podium places on the youth circuit and snagged a second-place finish at the European Continental Championships in 2020. Still, it was exciting in 2021 to see the Czech Republic team have another noteworthy competitor on the roster, aside from Ondra. Adamovska thus enters this new season as a 20-year-old rising star, part of the same generation as Grossman, Raboutou, and many others. All indications are that she is just starting to hit her stride and could be a standout for years to come.
2022 could be Miho Nonaka’s year. Her compatriot, Akiyo Noguchi, retired from competition climbing last year, making 24-year-old Nonaka the de facto Team Japan leader this season and the heir apparent to whatever other lofty titles we want to toss around: Japan’s team captain, savvy veteran, etc. Nonaka also seems to be healthy following a number of debilitating shoulder injuries. She’s riding a wave of momentum after earning silver medals at the Olympics last summer and the Japan Cup this winter. On top of all that, she is a perennial fan favorite—one of the stars of The Wall: Climb for Gold documentary that was released earlier this year. Looking at her past World Cup results, the best year for Nonaka was 2016, during which she notched two gold medals at bouldering events. It will be fun to see if she can get to that level again this season now that she’s injury-free and unequivocally the marquee name of Team Japan.
With all due respect to international readers, Climbing is an American-based publication, so it’s worth concluding with some other competitors who recently qualified for the American Team at USA Climbing’s National Team Trials. Each competitor will bring something unique to this year’s World Cup circuit. Both Emma Hunt and John Brosler have ruled the domestic Speed discipline for a long time, so there’s significant intrigue to see what they’ll do this World Cup season. Alongside them on the American Speed squad are Piper Kelly, fully recovered after a multi-year shoulder injury; Noah Bratschi, returning to the team after a year (2021) in which he podiumed at the World Championships; Merritt Ernsberger, who recently notched an impressive PR of 5.56 seconds; Callie Close, who won the Speed discipline in the women’s division at both the 2021 National Championships and this year’s National Team Trials; Sam Watson, who won the recent National Team Trials in the men’s division; as well as Liberty Runnels, Olivia Ma, and Joe Goodacre. In the bouldering and lead disciplines, keep an eye on Kylie Cullen, Maya Madere, Zach Galla, Ben Hanna, Quinn Mason, Ross Fulkerson, Jesse Grupper, and Kyra Condie.