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This past weekend’s Bouldering and Speed World Cup marked the third event of the year, following World Cups in Meiringen (Bouldering only) and Seoul (Bouldering and Speed). Held in Pioneer Park, centrally located in Salt Lake City, Utah, a strong and impressive list of athletes took to the walls. Being on home soil, the US sent a formidable roster—just under 40 athletes in total. Olympian Nathaniel Coleman was missing from the list, but many rising and current stars were present, including USA’s Natalia Grossman, who was poised for another win following her gold in Seoul and her double victory in Salt Lake City last year. Also present were Sean Bailey, who also won the Salt Lake City Bouldering World Cup last year, and Brooke Raboutou, another 2020 Olympic climber. In Speed, US record holders Emma Hunt, who placed second in Seoul and second in Salt Lake City last year, and John Brosler, fourth-place finisher in last year’s SLC World Cup, each were top podium contenders. Team USA was well positioned to pick up medals and records, and, following three days of action, athletes did just that.
Speed: One Medal and Two Records
The Speed World Cup took place on Friday, May 20, under the cover of clouds. Athletes were cold, bundled in jackets before runs, and some slipped while climbing. That didn’t stop John Brosler, however, from setting two new U.S. records and coming staggeringly close to breaking the world record. The 25-year-old Salt Lake City local and six-time US Speed champion ran a 5.3, then a 5.20—just three hundredths of a second from Indonesian superstar Kiromal Katibin’s world record time of 5.17, which was set in the Seoul World Cup. Finals, unfortunately, did not go Brosler’s way. He slipped in the round of eight and exited the competition early in fifth place.
Katibin and his compatriot (also a former world record holder) Veddriq Leonardo were in top form, consistently running times in the low 5’s and cruising through qualifications and each race in the finals round. Ultimately, however, it was USA’s Noah Bratschi who took center stage. When Leonardo slipped, Bratschi, climbing flawlessly, advanced to the final race against Katibin. Although he slipped off the beginning, Bratschi secured his position as a top American speed climber. Katibin went home with gold, Bratschi silver, and Leonardo bronze.
On the women’s side, it came at no surprise that world record-holder Aleksandra Miroslaw was the athlete to beat. She was the only athlete to break the seven-second barrier, and she did so repeatedly. 19-year-old Emma Hunt, meanwhile, holds the USA record—which she set in Seoul with the time 7.23 seconds—and the question was, will she break it again? Although ultimately she did not, she came close to it, once running 7.29, and her consistency earned her fourth place.
Polish twin sisters Aleksandra and Natalia Kalucka were also women to watch after they circled top spots in qualifiers. Both athletes have placed well in previous World Cups, and so although not a surprise, it was a treat for the crowd to see both siblings crushing together. Aleksandra finished in second and Natalia in third.
- Kiromal Katibin (INA)
- Noah Bratschi (USA)
- Veddriq Leonardo (INA)
- Ludovico Fossali (ITA)
- Aleksandra Miroslaw (POL)
- Aleksandra Kalucka (POL)
- Natalia Kalucka (POL)
- Emma Hunt (USA)
Men’s Bouldering: Rising Star Mejdi Schalck Takes Center Stage
Four U.S. athletes qualified into the semifinal round: Sean Bailey, Ross Fulkerson, Simon Hibbeller, and Charles Baron. Ranked third heading into semis was crowd favorite Sean Bailey. The 26-year-old has historically done exceptionally well on home soil—in addition to his win in Salt Lake City last year, he placed second in Vail in 2018. Tomoa Narasaki, meanwhile, led the pack was, to no one’s surprise, alongside 22-year-old Yannick Flohe, from Germany, who skipped the first two World Cups of the year and was exceptional in his 2022 debut.
The semis boulders were tough—two tops was enough to get you into finals. Veteran superstar Jakob Schubert, however, did all in two or fewer attempts, including an impressive flash of a highly technical finger crack. Medji Schalck, however, was perhaps the most fun to watch. The 18-year-old breakout star is somewhat infamously remembered for, in a fit of anger, throwing his chalk bag in last year’s Salt Lake City World Cup. The kid is passionate, and damn fluid. He was one of the few competitors to flash the dynamic third boulder, which involved a swing to a set of dual-textured slopers. Schalck qualified for finals in the last position, following up Schubert, Flohe, Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN), Nicolai Uznik (AUT), and Rei Kawamata (JPN). Both Narasaki and Bailey just missed the cutoff, despite climbing well.
The final boulders were yet another step up from those in the semifinal round. Athletes began to distinguish themselves on the second and third boulders, which only half the field was able to pull off—Kawamata, Ogata, and Schalck. The third boulder was particularly exciting for the crowd; it involved a large step up on volume to a small two-finger pocket. It was here that the athletes’ balance and precision really showed, particularly for Kawamata, who progressed closer and closer to sticking the final pocket on each attempt.
In the end, only Ogata and Schalck could pull off boulder number four, an exciting swing to a rose move on a pocket, and then a powerful jump to gain the next hold. Schalck proved to have a few more degrees of movement than the other competitors—he used the wall as a foot to stick the penultimate hold before moving to the finish. No chalk bags were thrown at this competition—and in earning his first gold medal, Schalck cemented himself as one of the world’s best. Ogata took silver and Kawamata bronze.
- Mejdi Schalck (FRA)
- Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)
- Rei Kawamata (JPN)
- Nicolai Uznik (AUT)
- Yannick Flohe (GER)
- Jakob Schubert (AUT)
Women’s Bouldering: Grossman and Raboutou Top the Podium
The queen of bouldering and 2020 Olympic winner Janja Garnbret was still missing—she announced her break from the 2022 Bouldering season following her win in Meiringen. Other top athletes, however, were in top form. Oriane Bertone, 17, was a joy to watch throughout qualis and into semis. She, like her compatriot Schalck, climbs with a unique, almost careless fluidity. She qualified in third behind first place finishers Grossman and Austria’s Franziska Sterrer. Sterrer had arguably her best competition round to date, being the only competitor in her group to send all five boulders
Five U.S. women made semis: Grossman, Raboutou, Cloe Coscoy, Kylie Cullen, and Adriene Clarke. Cullen had a memorable couple of rounds, wrapping up boulders in buzzer-beater finishes in both qualifiers and semis. She finished the competition in eleventh, matching her result in Seoul. As usual, Grossman excelled in qualifiers and semis, climbing robotically from one boulder to the next. It was Raboutou, however, who really dominated the semifinal round, flashing the first two boulders and wrapping up the third in just four attempts. Heading into finals, the question was, could the 21-year-old earn her first World Cup gold medal?
The finals boulders were widely varied, from demanding coordination-style jumps, to technical mantles, to powerful lunges between objectively bad holds. The first boulder saw tops from Grossman and Miho Nonaka. In a heartbreaking moment, Raboutou reached the finish on the final second, but the judge determined her time had run out, and she was not awarded the top. All women sent the second boulder relatively quickly—in the case of Grossman, Pilz, and Sterrer, a flash—leaving separation to occur in the third and fourth problems. Raboutou turned up the heat, sending boulder number three the fastest, in just two attempts. Sterrer and Moroni were the only competitors to miss the top.
Gold came down to the final boulder. Both Grossman and Pilz went into the problem with three tops. The boulder involved a coordination style-paddle past a sloped crimp to a volume, followed by powerful moves to the finish. Pilz managed all but the final move to the top. In a quick and stylistic flash, Grossman practically campused the first coordination move and then cruised her way to the finish, securing her fourth gold medal. The cherry on top: Raboutou flashed as well, securing second. Nonaka took bronze.
- Natalia Grossman (USA)
- Brooke Raboutou (USA)
- Miho Nonaka (JPN)
- Jessica Pilz (AUT)
- Franziska Sterrer (AUT)
- Camilla Moroni (ITA)
Next up is the Paraclimbing World Cup, to begin tomorrow, and then another Salt Lake City Bouldering and Speed World Cup, which begins on Friday.