Vail Teva Games: Americans climb their way to the top | VailDaily.com

Vail Teva Games: Americans climb their way to the top

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
TMG climbing finals 2 JF 6/6/09
ALL |

VAIL – At Saturday’s bouldering World Cup, the Americans showed the world of climbing what they were made of.

Alex Puccio, 20, took the title from fellow American Alex Johnson, who stormed to a win at last year’s competition at the Teva Mountain Games. This time, Puccio stole the show, climbing her way to the top of four “problems,” or climbing routes, with speed and power.

Puccio, of Boulder, was also the only climber out of the six women in the finals to reach the top of the particularly tough final problem. The climbers had four minutes total to climb four problems.

“I was very surprised,” said Puccio of the moment her hands firmly clamped on the last hold of the climb. “It was probably the hardest move of the whole competition. I didn’t think at all. I just jumped, and once I grabbed it, I thought, ‘I’m still holding on.'”

Americans showcase talent

The course was designed to bring out the best all-around climber, someone who had power, skill, problem-solving ability and endurance, said announcer Timmy O’Neill.

It ended up being a course that suited her climbing style, said Puccio, who took sixth in last year’s competition.

“These problems were more burly, and required more power than technique,” she said. “But they were all hard. You just can’t make a mistake, you can’t slip.”

This was the second year of Vail’s World Cup event, the only climbing World Cup event held in the United States. It gave the American team, which had two women and three men represented among the 12 finalists, a chance to showcase their talent among some of the world’s top climbers. The event is expected to come to Vail for the next three years.

On the men’s side, Jonas Baumann of Germany took first, with American Daniel Woods taking second and Kilian Fischhuber of Austria in third. Johnson took second on the women’s side and Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi was third.

Johnson, also of Boulder, also had a strong performance, solving some of the problems on her first try, which is called “flashing.” Looking back on her performance, Johnson said she was happy with her climbing and had nothing but congratulations for Puccio.

“I thought I did really great, and I’m happy with it,” she said.

The perfect flash

On the men’s side, spectacular moves and spiderman-like jumps kept the sizable crowd cheering.

Baumann, 22, had a solid performance and soundly defeated the fourth problem, a course that required climbers to jump and catch two holds, swing the lower body up, then jump again for the final hold.

The climb rejected several of the competitors multiple times, including Rustam Gelmanov of Russia, who was injured when falling from the wall and had to be taken from the mat on a stretcher.

However, Baumann knew he’d aced the climb upon reaching the top, giving a shout and pumping his fist to the roaring of the audience.

So how does it feel to be a World Cup champion?

“It feels perfect,” he grinned.

Woods, 19, wowed the crowd on the third problem, which involved a tricky feature that looked like a large ball. Competitors had to hoist themselves onto the ball, then stand clutching at almost nothing. Next, most of the climbers opted to stretch a foot way out, then make a difficult sideways and upwards jump for the final hold.

Woods decided to skip the middle step and instead make a wild jump from the ball feature, and ended up grasping firmly to the final hold.

“There on the blue feature, I was definitely nervous,” he said. “But you just have to clear your mind and go for it.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.