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If the first World Cup difficulty comp of 2004 is any indication, this year’s circuit could be a lot more exciting than last season. Tomás Mrázek of the Czech Republic dramatically won the men’s competition last weekend in Puurs, Belgium, with the only flash of the finals route. Mrázek won the biannual World Championships in 2003, and he finished sixth in the overall World Cup standings. Meanwhile, Alex Chabot of France, who easily won the World Cup title in 2003, did not make the finals in Puurs, tied for ninth place. Chabot’s closest rival, Ramón Julián Puigblanque (“Ramonét”) of Spain, finished eighth. The surprise winner among the women was Natalija Gros of Slovenia, who did not even compete in 2003, after winning the 2002 Junior World Championships and finishing second in the last World Cup of 2002. This was her first World Cup victory but likely not her last. The 2003 champion, Muriel Sarkany of Belgium, placed a disappointing second in front of the home crowd. Rising star Jenny Lavarda of Italy finished third—she also placed third at the first two bouldering World Cups of the 2004 season. Men 1. Tomás Mrázek (CZE) 2. Cédric Lachat (SUI) 3. François Auclair (FRA) 4. Gérôme Pouvreau (FRA) 5. Jorg Verhoeven (NED) Women 1. Natalija Gros (SLO) 2. Muriel Sarkany (BEL) 3. Jenny Lavarda (ITA) 4. Maja Vidmar (SLO) 5. Sandrine Levet (FRA)