Having viewed a number of China's World Cup events over the years, I turn to a makeshift checklist when settling into my La-Z-Boy prior to the start of any livestream from the country: Will some of the competitors—particularly from the Western world—be hampered by food poisoning? Will China’s humidity reduce any of the world’s best climbers to sweaty, exhaustive milksops? Will the livestream fall prey to China’s wonky Internet infrastructure—lagging-and-skipping to the point of being unwatchable?
Mind you, those are not curiosities that I pulled out of thin air; they are problems that have emerged when the IFSC has stopped in China as part of its globetrotting World Cup circuit. Luckily, this event at Chongqing (which will be proceeded by one in Tai’an and, for lead climbing, Wujiang) proved to be a smooth operation all-around. Best of all, it featured clever routesetting and offered a chance for the sport’s veterans to prove they can still hang with young phenoms.
The prologue for the action was a qualifying round on Saturday, May 5, noteworthy for who was not competing rather than for who was. In a baffling schedule faux pas, perennial favorite Jongwon Chon had to stay in his home country of South Korea to take part in a selection competition for the upcoming Asian Games. Also absent were Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain, Petra Klingler of Switzerland, and Janja Garnbret of Slovenia.
The performance that garnered the most attention in the qualifying round was that of Great Britain’s Nathan Phillips. Phillips flashed all of the problems. (Go ahead and read that again—five problems, five flashes!) The women’s results were tighter, with Belgium’s Chloe Caulier, France’s Fanny Gibert, Japan’s Futaba Ito, and others performing well in a hyper-close field.
Photo Gallery: The 2018 IFSC Bouldering World Cup Chongqing
Unlike most European countries, China typically holds its competitions in open-air outdoor spaces. This leaves World Cup events susceptible to weather changes—and the aforementioned humidity. This became pertinent following the qualifying round, as a lightning storm barreled through the city and lingered for 15 rainy hours. As a result, the venue was decidedly hot and muggy for the start of the semi-finals.
The ensuing round featured an abundance of volume-based problems. The commentators even explained how the main hold supplier for the event, China-based Gecko King, had exhausted its factory inventory to supply the rounds with hundreds of volumes.
Standouts in the women’s Semi-Finals were Japan’s dynamic duo of Miho Nonaka and Akiyo Noguchi. They each topped four boulders in a morning with relatively few highpoints.
In the men's Semi-Finals, Phillips was not able to continue his dominance from the qualifying round; he climbed well but failed to advance. The most significant climbing was done by Canada’s Sean McColl and Germany’s Jan Hojer. Both men were in peak form—coasting into the Finals and further distancing themselves from their inconsistent 2017 seasons.
The final round began late Sunday, May 6, with a feet-first overhanging women’s boulder. Commentator Charlie Boscoe noted that the obligatory movements didn’t put the climbers in the most “dignified” body position, but beyond various contortions, the requisite move set to spherical pinches was just plain burly. Noguchi and Nonaka were the only ones who topped. The second boulder cleansed the palate—a lone slab amid a smorgasbord of shouldery problems. It provided the most exciting moment of the round when Serbia’s Stasa Gejo stutter-stepped near the top (above at 51:51) to gasps from the crowd; she managed to downclimb slightly, compose herself, and try again for the arrow-shaped finishing hold. Slovenia’s Katja Kadic also wowed the crowd by topping as her time expired.
The third women’s boulder was the funkiest of the day, requiring competitors to start in a vertical stance, maneuver to a horizontal position, and finish in a more vertical posture. When Noguchi topped it, she secured the victory—her first since 2015. Thus, the fourth boulder, a pyramidal volume slog, became a battle for the runners-up, with Nonaka and Gejo ultimately earning silver and bronze medals respectively.
The men’s Finals opened with a straightforward boulder that, despite necessitating a double gaston near the top, proved to be too easy; every competitor flashed it. The second boulder separated the field, as only McColl, Japan’s Kokoro Fuji, and Austria’s Jakob Schubert figured out the necessary tension-laden sequence. The third boulder was a smattering of half-moon-shaped slopers. Despite the intriguing aesthetic, no men topped or even reached the zone holds—making this boulder the unequivocal letdown of the event.
As the sun set and the temperature cooled, the men began climbing the final problem. Fuji clinched a victory in a remarkable dyno to a single-hand top (3:07:26 in the livestream). McColl was not able to top the final sequence, but he managed to secure a second place finish. Russia’s Aleksei Rubtsov took third. Americans Kyra Condie and Sierra Blair-Coyle placed 21 and 35 in the women’s division, while Sean Bailey was 31 in the men’s.
The bouldering portion was followed by the Speed Finals, in which Indonesia’s Aries Susanti Rahayu claimed victory in the women’s division and Russia’s Dmitrii Timofeev won the Mmen’s group.
Most of the competitors will remain in China for the week, with the next IFSC bouldering and speed event beginning on May 12 in Tai'an.
- Akiyo Noguchi (JPN)
- Miho Nonaka (JPN)
- Stasa Gejo (SRB)
- Ekaterina Kipriianova (RUS)
- Jessica Pilz (AUT)
- Katja Kadic (SLO)
- Kokoro Fujii (JPN)
- Sean McColl (CAN)
- Aleksei Rubtsov (RUS)
- Jakob Schubert (AUT)
- Jan Hojer (GER)
- Jernej Kruder (SLO)
- Aries Susanti Rahayu (INA)
- Elena Timofeeva (RUS)
- Puji Lestari (INA)
- Anna Tsyganova (RUS)
- Dmitrii Timofeev (RUS)
- Aspar Jaelolo (INA)
- Danyil Boldyrev (UKR)
- JinXin Li (CHN)