Meet the Mikaela Shiffrin of climbing
VAIL — The World Cup is back — no, not that World Cup.
But as the International Federation of Speed Climbing Bouldering World Cup arrived at the GoPro Mountain Games on Friday with qualifying for today’s finals, there are some similarities to its Alpine counterpart.
There are thrills, chills and spills. There are volunteer brushers wiping away extra chalk on the climbing wall, just like course slippers. Yelling “Allez, allez,” — let’s go, let’s go — is customary.
Agility, strength and speed are at a premium with a flicker of panache at the finish, especially when having completed an obstacle and hanging by one arm to celebrate.
And then there’s Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, who is pretty much the Mikaela Shiffrin of the sport.
Garnbret started competing with the best after she turned 16.
Now a grizzled veteran at age 20, she enters the Vail competition, the finale of the season, having won five straight climbing World Cups and has already clinched the season title.
If she wins — and she was first in Friday morning’s qualifying — during the finals at 3 p.m. today, she will set a record for most consecutive World Cup wins, with six.
So we’ve got the dominant female headliner who’s taking her sport by storm — 24 World Cup wins to date, with three gold medals at the IFSC Climbing World Championships (one in 2016 and two in 2018) as well, on her resumé.
Shiffrin, clearly a slacker, had “only” 15 career World Cup wins, two FIS Alpine World Ski Championships titles and an Olympic gold. (Just as an FYI, bouldering is coming to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.)
“I watch her ski. She’s amazing,” Garnbret said. “I admire her. She’s a great competitor. I have huge respect for all professionals who have a passion for their sport.”
Statistics aside, the approach to competition is pretty similar between Garnbret and Shiffrin.
Quote No. 1: “I’m not the one who is chasing records. I’m just the one who really wants to enjoy the comp, do 100 percent, just to be present and enjoy.”
Quote No. 2: “I’m not here just for records or race wins or just to win a globe and then I’m done. I still have passion. I still have the motivation and so I keep on going.”
Yes, the expressions “comp” and “globe” give away the identities of the speaker, but Garnbret in the first quote and Shiffrin in the second sound awfully similar. Emphasizing the process and not the result seems like taking a page out of Shiffrin’s book or vice versa.
As for who’s going to be Marcel Hirscher at 4:45 p.m. today, that’s up for grabs. Japan took five of the top six spots in qualifying on Friday afternoon. With the exception of the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra in second, the Japanese swamped the top six spots.
In order, they are Yoshiyuki Ogata, Kai Harada, Meichi Narasaki, Keita Dohi and Tomoa Narasaki.
“In Vail, compared to all other bouldering competitions, it was rather difficult,” Narasaki said through a translator. “I think (altitude) increases it a little bit because these problems were quite demanding physically.”
The United States is not without hope for a podium spot on home rock. Salt Lake City’s Nathaniel Coleman, San Diego’s Sean Bailey and Westminster’s Matt Fultz were all in the top 12 of qualifying. For the Women, keep an eye out for Alex Johnson and Kyra Condie.