Eight defining moments of the 2021 competition season

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Between the Olympic Games and the world’s return to competition, 2021 has become one of the most exhilarating competitive seasons in climbing history. Today, we take a look back at its defining moments.

Meiringen World Cup – Bouldering – Men’s Final; M1

After a year of absence from competition, the Meiringen World Cup kicked off what looked like the end of the pandemic. This return to normal has relieved climbing fans. While there was a lot to like about the Meiringen competition, M1 in the Boulder final came up with a unique shot that only Japan’s Yoshiyuki Ogata could take for the top. While this season was marked by many incredible issues such as W3 in the women’s Olympic final and M4 in the second World Cup in Salt Lake City, the first of the blocks in the men’s final in Meiringen had several impossible qualities and incredible.

Salt Lake City World Cup # 2 – Boulder – Women’s Final

Despite her incredible season, Natalia Grossman seemed unable to overtake Slovenian Janja Garnbret. While climbing your terrain has its advantages, it also comes with added pressures that can make it difficult to perform. While Grossman’s victory in the first of two World Cups in Salt Lake was substantial, one question remained unanswered: Could she have won against Garnbret? In the second SLC World Cup, these two master competitors competed for first place. Although it was extremely close, the end result claimed that Grossman was controversial against Garnbret’s stronger discipline.

Akiyo Noguchi climbs his last World Cup in Boulder: Innsbruck

The Innsbruck Boulder World Cup has been one of the most intense competitions of this year. Between Johanna Färber’s problematic videography, a dramatic thunderstorm that quickly ended the women’s final, and Akiyo Noguchi’s Boulder World Cup final, tensions were running high as officials struggled to pass the competition. While the event had many flaws, the timing of Noguchi’s last attempt at a Boulder World Cup seemed heavy. The upcoming Olympics mitigated that blow, but his latest rise to the Olympic stage brought tears to the eyes of spectators and commentators alike.

Akiyo Noguchi – photo by Lena Drapella

Mickael Mawem leading the Olympic finals

While the men’s Olympic final provided excitement as well, the qualifying round came as a surprise. Frenchman Mickael Mawem climbed one of his best bouldering laps to date and showed why he deserves to be an Olympian. Although the French climber did not maintain his position until the final, his dominant performance faced all the favorites. Mawem has shown that it is not power or ability that he lacks, only consistency. As such, the value of an off-season training could produce another leader in the international bouldering arena.

Olympic final by Janja Garnbret

For some, Garnbret’s victory was suspected. Although she was the favorite in the competition, her performance at the Games took her to the physical limits of her abilities. The tiring nature of Tokyo’s Olympic format meant that even Garnbret failed to scale all three bouldering issues in the women’s final. Still, she led the block, making her her competition to lose coming in first. That said, Miho Nonaka ran some incredible sprint races throughout the competition and a lead win could take the Slovenian out of the top spot. It’s hard to identify the movement that made Garnbret’s lead final so impressive. Instead, it’s easier to admire the absolute control of an athlete withstanding the pressure of two years of waiting.

Janja Garnbret – photo by Dimitris Tosidis

Double victory for Melina Costanza in Albuquerque

In the North American Cup Series, a performance caught on among international events. American Melina Costanza won the Lead and Boulder disciplines in Albuquerque. Despite making just one mistake atop the women’s national final route, Costanza had a nearly flawless season otherwise. Pulling an almost Grossman level of dominance in the American realm, Costanza has a chance to break into the upper echelons of the sport.

Kokoro Fujii – M1 – Moscow World Championship Final

He has appeared in all of the Boulder World Cup finals this season. In those finals, he walked away with a silver and bronze medal, but never quite grabbed first place. Sometimes it looked like a misreading route, and other times it wasn’t clear what was holding it back. One thing that was evident was his strength. Fujii is perhaps the strongest competitive bouldering player in the world. Although The Strongest has many connotations, Fujii seemed to do things that others could not do. This became evident on a large scale when he actually won the Boulder World Championships by flashing M1.

In the men’s field, it is usually rare to see such a dominant victory, but from his first attempt to his last, Fujii’s performance provided a glimpse of the future strength of competitive escalation.

Oriane Bertone and Mejdi Schalck finished the season

This piece is rather an evaluation of two young French climbers. Lots of people have erupted this year, but Oriane Bertone and Mejdi Schalck have brought another level of precision to the competition. What made them most interesting was the way they climbed. While these blocks are strong, they often used momentum breaks and betas to secure their high positions. The competition style seemed the most comfortable in their hands. Where Fujii showed what pinnacle of strength could look like next season, Bertone and Schalck offered a masterclass in efficiency and timing at the World Cup level.

Featured Image of Mickael Mawem by Dimitris Tosidis.



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