World Cup climbing thrills crowds in Vail
Garngret wins sixth straight World Cup
VAIL — The closest thing might be hanging on the rim after a slam dunk.
There are very few moments of “I’m the boss” in sports like hanging by one arm, looking out at a huge crowd after summiting a course during an International Federation of Speed Climbing Bouldering World Cup at the GoPro Mountain Games on Saturday afternoon at Vail’s Mountain Plaza.
Sure it’s “only” 30 feet, with perils abounding in “rocks” extending outward, placing climbers in conflict with gravity. The athletes put their entire weight on toeholds that seem only suitable for insects. These people have muscles on muscles to get into the crevices and angles required to make it to the top.
So hang around a little while, if you make it.
“OK, this is so unreal,” Slovenia’s Janja Garngret said after winning her sixth straight World Cup, a new circuit record. “I don’t know what happened. This year I was never nervous before a World Cup, but this time, I was freaking out. But I had fun, and it was enough for the win.”
Japan’s Yoshiyuki Ogata won the men’s competition.
In the women’s comp, the first difference maker came on the second wall with a quarter sphere jutting out from the wall about 15-20 feet up the course.
That problem dropped France’s Luce Douady, and Fanny Gibert and Japan’s Mao Nakamura.
Wall No. 3 featured three different panels, all at 90-degree angles and flummoxed all but Garnbret, who summoned her experience as a spider in a previous life — there is no other explanation — and Gibert.
That left the Slovenian with a 10-point advantage over Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka and Gilbert, going into the final wall of the afternoon.
The last problem of the day inverted climbers at a 45-degree angle over the stage before the crest. Successfully navigating the 45-degree plane to the final panel perpendicular to the stage was the challenge.
Noguchi was the first to make it all the way up, but Garnbret answered in her first try with a successful summit. At the top, she appeared to cup hand to her face in joy, knowing she had clinched her sixth straight World Cup.
“After the last boulder, I couldn’t hide the feelings,” Garnbret said. “All the hard work paid off. I was so happy I made it.”
We’ve got a problem
In official climbing parlance, the routes up each of the four walls are called problems.
And with good reason.
By and large, there is one solution to each problem. The men’s competition took on a more deliberate pace as the athletes mapped out their path during their allotted four minutes.
The pauses added to the drama in front of a crowd backed up all the way to Bridge Street, all looking at the climbing competition with Vail Mountain as its backdrop.
The third wall to the far east of the stage started separating the six finalists. Ironically, in a climbing competition, this feature tested the athletes’ ability to work horizontally across three panels.
Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki and Yoshiyuki Ogata were the only to navigate it, the latter head-butting the wall in celebration at the top.
In the de facto all-Japanese final on the fourth climb, Narasaki fell four times trying to make the transition from the 45-degree inverted angle to the final panel. By finishing second, Narasaki clinched the season World Cup title.
Two climbers later, Ogata summited the final problem on his first attempt, hanging at the top joyfully, seemingly on top of the world.
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