Season 2024 begins at Boulder

The first IFSC World Cup of the year began with Boulder Qualification in Keqiao, China at the stunning purpose-built Shaoxing Keqiao Yangshan Climbing Centre.

As Hangzhou opens its doors to the 2022 Asian Games, a lucky few climbers will already have a feel for the wall from that experience, but for most it will be their first time attempting bouldering in the new arena.

First there were 60 women, and it was no surprise that Slovenia's Janja Kornbred topped her group with five flash problems. In an Olympic year, the current and only female Olympic gold medalist has a 'start what you love' attitude.

Janja said: „Before the start of the season, it's always a mystery and always a little nervous because I know I've been training hard in the winter, but you never know what the other girls will do, how hard they're training. Today I wasn't nervous at all, I'm very excited to start the season. Excited and enjoying all the boulders and being very focused and mentally sharp I had a lot of fun.

Cornbread shares the top spot with Japan's Nonaka Miho and Australia's Oceania McKenzie, who flashed all five boulders, but both are in Group B this time.

Mackenzie said: “Today I would say, especially in Group B, today was a slightly easier round. Coming into this race, I feel good about my preparation, but the first season of the season is always a little scary because you don't know how you'll do and how other people are climbing. I feel good after the round, I climbed with a lot of confidence, so I'm happy.

Standing alone in fourth place, Great Britain's Erin McNeice topped four Group A boulderers to enter the semi-finals, and Britain is keen to continue: „I'm really excited for tomorrow. Today's blocks were good. It was a little nervous because it's the first season of the season, but I'm really happy to get another chance to climb tomorrow.

“I like climbing two days in a row. I think I'll be bored if I get a day off, I've already eaten two and I don't want another.

Group B had six climbers who topped all five problems, with home favorite Luo Zhilu joining Nonaga and Mackenzie in a full house among the climbers.

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The going was a bit tougher in Group A with only Cornbread and McNeice hitting more than three tops. Some of the climbers who advanced from the group to the semifinals were America's Kyra Conti and Austria's Jessica Bils, who were heavily focused on an event in 2024, a very cold season opener.

Bills said: „I think I'm not nervous compared to other seasons because it's not that important yet. I'm taking this match as training and seeing how my training goes.

“My big event in a few months [the Olympic Games] So I have a different timeline to stay in shape compared to other athletes, so I'm not really that nervous.

Click here to hear more from the athletes at the IFSC World Cup Keqiao

Click here for full results

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