Johnson claims World Cup for U.S.
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” In her first World Cup bouldering competition, American climber Alex Johnson had her eyes set on making the finals. Once that happened Saturday afternoon at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Johnson could breath a bit easier.
“I was really nervous for the (semifinal) round. Six is a really small number to get to the finals,” Johnson said. “I knew that once I got to the finals, all my nerves would be gone. I didn’t put any pressure on myself once I was in the finals because it doesn’t get any bigger.”
Unless you win.
Johnson, who came into the finals as the No. 4 seed, climbed her way to the top of the wall at Vail’s Golden Peak Saturday night, then took a step onto the top of the podium.
But it gets even bigger.
Not only was it a coming-of-age win for Johnson, but one for her country, which hosted its first World Cup bouldering event. The home crowd cheered on Johnson and the other American climbers, who made up nearly half of the total finals’ field.
“It was a great show,” said Austrian Kilian Fischhuber, who won the men’s competition on a flawless final climb. “They don’t compete that often and there were (five) in the finals, which was amazing.”
Johnson, who was joined by American women Tiffany Hensley and Alex Puccio, took control of the competition on the third of four “problems” in the finals. For each of the problems, which is a set route up the wall, competitors were given four minutes to try and “solve” them. After most of the women solved the first problem, only Austria’s
Anna Stohr solved the second problem.
“I was sitting in the chair next to Tiffany,” Johnson said. “After we did the second one, I said to her, ‘This is the one that’s going to divide everyone up.’ I was really focused and psyched. After climbing the second one my forearms were feeling better. I was warmed up. I just went out with a positive attitude.”
Johnson solved the third problem on her first try, which is called flashing. Nobody else solved the third problem, and none of the climbers were able to solve the fourth problem, giving Johnson the win.
“Maybe I should stop now. End on a good note,” Johnson joked after the awards ceremony.
Katharina Saurwein of Austria was second, while Stohr took third. Hensley was fourth.
“We definitely had a chance,” Hensley said of the U.S. winning at home. “It was an American setting (for the wall).”
And the crowd didn’t hurt, either.
“When the crowd roars, they are giving us energy,” Hensley said. “It’s like we are here to entertain them, and not to get a (World Cup) ranking or anything.”
In the men’s competition, Italy’s Gabriele Moroni flashed the final problem, leaving Fischhuber with the tall task of doing the same. Before Fischhuber took to the wall, the announcer made sure everyone knew just what Fischhuber had to do.
“The speaker put a lot of pressure on me,” he said. “Sometimes I like this pressure, and if works out, it’s even better.”
Before taking to the wall, Fischhuber took plenty of time to analyze the route. While the competitors were allowed to preview the problems for a short period of time before finals started, they can’t watch each other climb ” they sit with their backs to the wall until it is their turn to climb. Because Fischhuber entered the finals as the No. 1 seed (he flashed all four problems in the semifinals), he was the last to climb for each problem.
“I could hear who made it to the top ” it’s always pressure,” Fischhuber said.
The fourth problem, which was the second-hardest in the finals, had climbers start in a near-inverted position, and then move up the wall in positions that even orangutans wouldn’t consider.
Fischhuber moved to the last hold of the problem, paused for a second, then lunged for the final hold.
“I was so tired,” he said. “I though, ‘let’s do a move for the audience,’ and I jumped and it was a lot of luck to hold that. I was really close to falling.”
Fischhuber held though, to the delight of the crowd.
“They were really going berserk.”
American Paul Robinson was third, with teammate Daniel Woods fifth. Great Britain’s Tyler Landman, who has lived in Boulder for the past two years, was sixth.
“It was my first World Cup, so I wasn’t expecting do to that well,” Landman said. “I made it to finals, so that was good. I wasn’t that pleased because I climbed my worst in the most important round. At least it was good to make it.”
The United States won the team competition for the first time in a World Cup.
“It’s a shame they aren’t competing (in World Cups) more often because they are so strong,” Fischhuber said of American climbers. “I wish they would come to Europe to give us a lot of challenge.”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.