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European Boulder Championship

The video report of the Finals in Innsbruck (AUSTRIA)

Over 150 athletes took part in the 2015 edition of the European Boulder Championships that took place in Innsbruck between 14  and 16 May. As the first senior IFSC competition for the year, the 3-day event may have provided us with a taste of things to come in the forthcoming Boulder World Cup season…

The qualification round witnessed the early departure of strong Slovenian Jernej Kruder (vice-World Champion last year) who failed to make it through to the semi-finals and it was quite surprising to see Jan Hojer from Germany qualify only 9th in his group. As to unexpectedly results, this time good: Italy’s Michael Piccolruaz (a finalist in the 2013 edition) tied first with French giant Guillaume Glairon-Mondet in group A, ahead of other powerhouses such as Dmitry Sharafutdinov and Jorg Verhoeven. It’s worth remembering that the reigning European Bouldering Champion, Kilian Fischhuber, wasn’t there to defend his title as he’d resigned from competitions at the end of last season.

Nothing too surprising or alarming to report from the women's qualifiers, apart from the fact that Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain had injured herself recently and could not participate. She did double up as a fantastic  co-commentator though and her loss was the live stream audience’s gain.

The men's semi-final was marked by extremely difficult boulder problems. The first one, in fact, was topped only by Jakob Schubert (who therefore qualified in provisional first place for the finals) while problem #3 remained unconquered. More big names such as Gelmanov, Sharafudtinov and Glairon-Mondet failed to make it through to the last round and they were replaced by new faces such as Martin Stráník (Czech Republic) and Stefan Scarperi (Italy), by former world champion Alexey Rubtsov and by Adam Ondra, Hojer and Schubert. The only illustrious victim of the women’s semi-finals was Frenchwoman Mélissa Le Nevé whilst a mix of Austrian and German athletes sensationally took the first five out of seven places in the final, leaving one for Fanny Gibert (France) and one for Mina Markovic (Slovenia) who tied for provisional sixth.

The men’s final had rather peculiar dynamics. The first boulder, which wedged athletes under a big undercling and then required a lunge to a sloper, was topped by Ondra only. Unluckily for him, though, his flash attempt was halted by a referee he had touched a nearby problem during the dyno, meaning that he sent it second go.

The second boulder looked less daunting, with a nice back-to-the-wall start followed by a wild dyno to a hold that was out of sight. Jan Hojer produced an extremely impressive flash whilst Jakob Schubert managed to send it in the dying seconds of his round. At this  point, the German had taken the provisional lead, ahead of Adam Ondra and the Austrian who trailed third.

The third problem was characterised by vertical symmetry as the holds were identical on both two sides. This resulted in many different types of beta, although the only athlete who actually managed to stick the extremely slick and slopy holds was Stefan Scarperi of Italy, whose 5th go top put him ahead of Jakob Schubert.

The last boulder frustrated many climbers, too. But when Jan Hojer climbed it on his second attempt, it was game over. With two tops in three attempts and a better score than Ondra when it came to bonuses, he had secured himself the European championship. The young man from Brno then came in second after climbing the last boulder in four attempts and, since no one else managed to reach its top, Stefan Scarperi held on to bronze. Just one attempts separated the Italian from Jakob Schubert who had looked impressively strong throughout the qualifications and semi-final.

The female final was more linear but by no means less impressive. In fact, whereas the best male athletes managed just two tops, Juliane Wurm produced two amazing flashes on the first two technical boulders.  Anna Stöhr managed to send these two problems but needed more attempts, while the the other five ladies remained empty-handed. The third problem was climbed by more athletes despite a powerful, near iron cross move. The final problem tackled a slab with a really long move off terrible footholds. At this point Jule and Anna led the field by two tops and had therefore guaranteed the first two places. And when Anna Stöhr fell off the boulder one last time, everybody knew that the gold had gone to reigning World Champion Juliane Wurm.

Although there were many participants and the competitive spirit was ablaze, it's hard to try and predict how things will go in the Boulder World Cup season, due to start in Toronto in two weeks time. Jule Wurm and Anna Stöhr looked head and shoulders above the rest (3 tops in the final whereas the others managed 1 at the most), but since this was a European event calibre competitors were excluded such as Akiyo Noguchi (winner of the 2014 World Cup season) and Alex Puccio, as well as the aforementioned injured Shauna Coxsey.

As to the male athletes, the likes of Glairon-Mondet (third in the 2014 World Cup) and the Russian stars Gelmanov and Sharafutdinov (each with way too many titles to mention) will surely wish to redeem themselves after this false start. Good work by Ondra, current World Champion and intent on completing a full comp season this year, by Schubert who, on the contrary, will spend more time on rock, and of course by the winner Jan Hojer.

We hope that problem setting will improve too, since the boulders proved too difficult in many cases. For instance, the men's semi-final was basically a two-boulder competition since the third bloc remained unclimbed and the first one was only topped once. Things improved slightly in the final, although all said and done there were only six tops on three boulders, not a lot for a heat comprised of 6 athletes × 4 problems…
In any case, we are looking forward to the 2015 competition season and hope it'll be intense and satisfying for both the athletes and spectators alike.
by Franz Schiassi

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