Slovenian retains bouldering title in qualifying event for Tokyo 2020 as home favourite Tomoa Narasaki strikes gold in men's competition
After dominating the bouldering World Cup season, Janja Garnbret on Tuesday (13th August) went out and successfully defended her crown at the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Hachioji, Japan.
Garnbret more than lived up to her billing as the hot favourite to retain her title from Innsbruck a year ago, holding off Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi and Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain to snare the first gold of these championships.
"I must say this is the dream season. It's the best season I've ever had." - Janja Garnbret speaking to Olympic Channel
On the men’s side, Tomoa Narasaki won his second world title – his first since 2016 – with the only two tops in the field, beating Jakob Schubert of Austria and Yannick Flohe of Germany.
The first climber to sweep a season in IFSC history by winning all six bouldering World Cup events, even Garnbret seemed taken aback by her continued success less than a year away from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
After topping the podium, the Slovenian said, "The bouldering World Cup circuit was just amazing. I couldn’t imagine that this is possible and now that I also won the World Championships, it’s even more amazing. I couldn’t wish for a better bouldering season.
“It feels amazing. I had a lot of fun during the finals and I enjoyed climbing in front of the amazing crowd so it feels amazing to again be world champion.”
Garnbret had the crowd on her side at Esforta Arena, proving as popular as the Japanese climbers Noguchi, Miho Nonaka and Nanako Kura.
The feeling seemed to be mutual as the 20-year-old, who stunned the crowd by becoming the only climber to complete the second test, solved the fourth and final problem with ease to take victory and deny Noguchi an elusive world title.
She added, "I really like Japan. I really like the culture. It’s really amazing.
“I was here in Tokyo two years ago (World Cup in May 2017) and now two years later I won again so maybe Tokyo is a good place for me. I’m looking forward to the Olympics."
The favourite for Olympic gold is not about to let up just yet.
These championships serve as a qualifier for Tokyo 2020 with the combined events (20-21 August) deciding the first places for sport climbing's debut at the Games.
“First I have to qualify for the Olympic Games,” Garnbret said. “But I don’t really like to talk about expectations, I never talk about them. As I always say, I need to have a lot of fun and everything will be OK.”
For the Japanese contingent, Noguchi narrowly missed out on gold yet again in what will be the last World Championships of her career.
The 30-year-old has already announced she will retire in 2020 with her ultimate goal for this event to punch her ticket to next summer’s Games.
She said, "I was second at last year’s World Championships and I was also second in all four bouldering World Cup events I competed in this season so this one is pretty tough for me to accept.
"Obviously, I was looking to win here but the most important thing is the combined so a runner-up finish is a pretty good way to get things going for that.
"I’m in a good position after the bouldering so I don’t need to put any extra pressure on myself in the lead and speed. If I climb the way I always do, I’m confident I will make it to the combined." - Akiyo Noguchi speaking to Olympic Channel
The women's combined final takes place next Tuesday (20th August) with the athletes boasting the six lowest totals after the placings from the bouldering, lead and speed are multiplied together making it through.
While the women’s competition went down to the wire, Narasaki won with a problem to spare in what turned out to be a puzzling evening for the men.
While Narasaki was the lone climber to reach the top, leading qualifier Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic – who slugged it out with Narasaki for this season’s overall World Cup bouldering crown – did not achieve even one zone.
Narasaki reached his first top on M1 and topped M3 to strike gold as his five opponents struggled to get a grip.
But like every other climber in Hachioji, the world number one has his sights set on next week and clinching an Olympic berth.
He said, "I was out to win it last year but came up short so glad to have got it done this year. After the first top, I felt like the tide was turning for me. Finishing first here makes the rest of the week a lot easier and takes a lot of pressure off me.
"In 2016, the World Championships were just about the World Championships. This time, it all comes down to the combined so I’m not going to relax just yet." - Tomoa Narasaki speaking to Olympic Channel
"The plan all long was to do well in bouldering so I could relax for the lead and speed and fortunately, it’s worked out that way."
The men's combined final brings these World Championships to a close next Wednesday (21st August).
11 - 21 Aug 2019
IFSC World Championships - Hachioji