TIME TO BREAK THE ICE!

The resort of Malbun, Liechtenstein hosted the first official ice climbing competition of 2018 with the staging of the annual UIAA Ice Climbing World Youth Championships from 5-7 January. The event provided an opportunity for the next generation of athletes to display their talent. The competition was organised by UIAA member federation Liechtensteiner Alpenverein LAV. Results and photos can be found here.

Action from the 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Youth Championships. Photo: UIAA/Michael Zanghellini

This World Youth Championships will be shortly followed by the start of the World Tour comprising five World Cup events in five countries between mid January and early March.

Ice climbing is a sport in the ascendancy. Season after season, more athletes are taking part in the World Tour – partnered by The North Face Korea, more events are being held, and more countries represented. Increased coverage of the sport is bringing it into the collective conscious of a wider audience. All ingredients which support ice climbing’s bid to become an official competition sport at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

The World Tour is a showcase for the qualities which ice climbing has become synonymous with – determination, skill, endurance, commitment, speed and above all the unrelenting camaraderie and respect between athletes.

THE VENUES

The 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing season commences in one of its iconic venues. The majestic resort of Saas Fee, Switzerland (18-20 January) has held ice climbing competitions, organised by expert, professional mountain guides, for nearly two decades. The venue, cut into the resort car park, is one of the most distinct on the World Tour circuit with spectators able to watch the action from various vantage points as athletes ascend the ice wall.

A week later, another staple venue in the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour, plays centrestage. Rabenstein (25-27 January) on the Italian-Austrian boarder is renowned for the quality of its ice and exciting, technical routes. As part of its warm-up for the World Cup event, two weeks earlier the venue hosts the Psairer Bauernmeisterschaft championship, a duathlon concept comprising the disciplines of “Haiziechn”, hay pulling, and ice climbing, focuses on fun and on reviving an old tradition.

Copyright: Patrick Schwienbacher/UIAA

A new entry in the 2018 World Tour is Hohhot (2-4 February), the capital of Inner Mongolia in North China. Following on from last year’s event in Beijing, China reinforces its status as a UIAA World Tour stop. Home to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, the country’s presence on the World Tour calendar is a significant one. Hosting the 2018 Olympic Winter Games is PyeongChang, South Korea from 9 to 25 February. Ice climbing will celebrate its presence in the host country during the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup event in Cheongsong (9-11 February), another popular venue on the World Tour – more details below. Cheongsong is renowned for its impressive structure and partisan atmosphere. The season concludes in Kirov, Russia (2-4 March), a venue making its return to the calendar after a three-season absence. In this ice climbing paradise regularly used as training base by national federations, the World Tour winners will be decided.

THE ATHLETES

In excess of 300 athletes are expected to grace the 2018 season. By the beginning of January, ice climbers from Azerbaijan, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States had registered for the Series.

World Tour champions in 2017 were South Koreans HeeYong Park (male) and Hannarai Song (female) in lead and Russians Vladimir Kartashev (male) and Ekaterina Koshcheeva and Maria Tolokonina (female) in speed.

Copyright: Patrick Schwienbacher/UIAA

For the athletes seeking to defend their titles competition will be typically fierce. A Series which witnesses the first four events held across two continents over four weekends demands a significant amount from their athletes in terms of both preparation and recuperation.

In the lead discipline, in the potential absence of defending champion HeeYong Park, the likes of the Tomilov brothers (Maxim a four-time World Tour series champion in lead and Alexey always competitive), Nikolai Kuzovlev and Alexey Dengin will provide guile and experience. Watch out too for emerging youngsters like Switzerland’s Lukas Goetz and Canada’s Noah Beek. In the women’s competition both World Cup champion Hannarai Song and compatriot World Champion Shin Woonseon will reignite their rivalry. Ireland’s Eimir McSwiggan and a host of Russian athletes including Maryam Filippova, Nadezhda Gallyamova and Tolokonina will provide stern competition together with the presence of Switzerland’s multi-talented Petra Klingler and Finland’s Enni Bertling.

In speed, defending champion Kartashev will face competition from former World Tour winners like Kirill Kolchegoshev and Nikolai Kuzovlev as well as the talented Leonid Malykh. The Russian favourites will face a close challenge from the emerging Iranian and Slovak teams who have both trained hard and shown exceptional progress ahead of the the recent season. Ekaterina Koshcheeva and Maria Tolokonina shared the women’s title in 2017 after finishing the series level on points. They start as the athletes to beat. The list of registered athletes is available here.

HOW TO WATCH THE ACTION

Livestreaming will be available from semi-finals and finals of all World Cup events. In collaboration with distribution partner Upstream Media, the UIAA will distribute the livestream on its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels. A playback feature will be available once the livestream has concluded. The best moments of competition will be available as clips and highlight packages.

Live results will be available here.

PARTNERSHIP WITH THE OLYMPIC CHANNEL

The UIAA is delighted to confirm that action from the 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour will be livestreamed on the Olympic Channel to a global audience. Ice climbing made its debut on the Olympic Channel during last February’s UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France. Livestreaming on the Olympic Channel of the semi-finals and finals of the pinnacle event of the season allowed viewers worldwide to watch the lead and speed competitions and helped introduce a new audience to the sport.

Copyright: Monica Dalmasso/UIAA

All five World Cup events in the 2018 calendar are scheduled to be livestreamed on the global digital platform. “Live coverage of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour on the Olympic Channel is an exciting and significant development,” explains the UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt. “Following the success of the 2017 season in terms of viewing figures and quality of live broadcast, our goal is to further amplify the coverage of ice climbing throughout 2018. The Olympic Channel is a prestigious platform, and our presence on the Channel will help introduce ice climbing to sport enthusiasts from across the globe.” Full story here.

COMMITMENT TO CLEAN CLIMBING

The UIAA promotes Clean Climbing by adopting and implementing the World Anti-Doping (WADA) Programme in its entirety. A significant part of this commitment lies in the mandatory online anti-doping education programme which all athletes must complete as part of their annual competition licence. Doping controls are conducted at all World Tour competitions and at this year’s European Cup events.

Tests are conducted at competition and out of competition, random and targeted, in both lead and speed disciplines. After conducting doping controls for eight seasons, in 2017 the UIAA Anti-Doping and Ice Climbing Commissions successfully handled their first positive doping case in 2017. Full details on the UIAA and Clean Climbing can be found here.

EUROPEAN CUPS

For the first time the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour is being run alongside a European Tour, a four-event Series designed to enable athletes to sharpen their skills in a competitive environment ahead of World Cup events. Dually it is the perfect showcase for emerging and youth ice climbers to develop much needed experience. Two European Cups have already been held in Domžale, Slovenia and Bratislava, Slovakia.  The famous ice climbing structure in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France hosts the next event on 11-13 January followed by a competition in Oulu, Finland on 24-25 February.

ICE CLIMBING HEADS TO THE HOME OF THE WINTER OLYMPICS

Inclusion in the official competition programme of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games remains UIAA’s core ambition for the sport of ice climbing. The hosting of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Korea provides an opportunity for the UIAA to showcase this dynamic, youthful and increasingly popular sport in the host country of the Games. Despite continued and joint efforts between the UIAA and the Korean Alpine Federation (KAF), the organisation of a showcase event onsite in PyeongChang will not be possible.

The famous ice structure of Cheongsong, South Korea. Copyright: UIAA/Rhea Kang (KAF)

However, as communicated in November, with the fourth UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup event of the 2018 season taking place in Cheongsong shortly before the Olympic Winter Games, the UIAA will use the event as a specific showcase for the sport, working with athletes, officials, spectators and media to promote the sport. Video content, stories and interviews under the #iceclimbing2022 will run on a dedicated blog throughout the competition. A week after the event, an ice climbing training camp will be held in Cheongsong where youngsters will be able to discover more about the sport.

ATHLETE COMMISSION

A recent development in the sport of ice climbing saw the election of Kendra Stritch (AAC, United States), Nikolai Primorev (RMF, Russia) and Gordon McArthur (ACC, Canada) to the UIAA Ice Climbing Commission during October’s UIAA General Assembly. All three are current ice climbers whose involvement in the Commission demonstrates the UIAA’s desire for athletes to have an even stronger voice in the future of the sport.

MEDIA ASSETS

A selection of UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour images available for media use can be downloaded directly from the following link.

Videos content can be embedded directly from the UIAA YouTube Channel.

Further photos are available on the UIAA Flickr Channel.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Discover more about the UIAA & Ice Climbing here.

The official Athlete Handbook can be downloaded here.

Main image: Shin Woonseon. Copyright: Patrick Schwienbacher/UIAA