Cheongsong County, the region of South Korea famous for its apple production, played host to the penultimate round of the 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour from 9-11 February. The competition, which comprised the Asian Championships, was graced by 91 athletes from 14 countries, partnered by The North Face Korea, and organised in collaboration with the Korean Alpine Federation (KAF).

Speed: World Champion returns to form
Practically imperious throughout each round, Ekaterina Koshcheeva, the 22-year old speed World Champion from Russia, took her first gold of the season in Cheongsong winning the decisive two-climb duel against Natalia Belyaeva, gold medallist last weekend in Hohhot, with a time of 19.36 to 19.67.

Two eerily consistent climbs of 10.93 ensured Ekaterina Feoktistova a bronze medal with victory over Nadezda Gallyamova. Koshcheeva is the fourth different athlete to claim a speed gold medal across the four World Cup events this season. She now heads the overall rankings on 325 points ahead of Belyaeva (300) and Feoktistova (296).

Gold Medal Climb: Ekaterina Koshcheeva

Nikolai Kuzovlev, gold medallist in the season opener in Saas-Fee, offered a raw demonstration of explosive power in the men’s final saving his best form for the decisive two climbs and registering the fastest time of the weekend with his final ascent of the Cheongsong wall – a staggering 6.06 seconds. His victory over an impressive, unflustered Leonid Malykh achieved by a margin of 12.96 to 13.49. Anton Nemov, overall classification leader going into the weekend, appeared the most dangerous performer until the very final round where Kuzovlev exerted his muscle. Nemov eventually had to settle for fourth losing the bronze placed duel to last year’s World Tour winner Vladimir Kartashev. Nemov’s (300) lead over Kuzovlev (295) in the overall standings is a now mere five points. Sitting third on 270 points the powerful and robust Ivan Spitsyn remains well in contention for the overall 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Title.

Gold Medal Climb: Nikolai Kuzovlev

Lead: Shin takes Korean plaudits
Another supreme act of swift technical climbing from World Champion Woonseon Shin ensured a Korean athlete left their home event with a gold medal. Following her first place in Hohhot last weekend, Shin was the only athlete in both the men’s and women’s finals to top a long and challenging route. Korea’s other prominent female lead climber and the last athlete to climb, Hannarai Song, had to settled for third popping out of a hold when well placed to challenge the leaders. Russia’s Maria Tolokonina made up for the disappointment of speed qualification elimination with a poised performance to earn silver. Korean athletes have taken all four gold medals of the season to date with Shin leading the overall rankings on 360 points. Tolokonina sits second on 290 and Song third on 265.

Kuzovlev was one of two athletes to compete in the men’s speed and lead finals. A seventh place suggests understandable fatigue may have set in. Alexey Dengin (310 points) continues his dominance of this year’s competition adding to gold medals in Saas-Fee and Hohhot. Maxim Tomilov’s (291) third silver medal of the season puts him second in the overall rankings and needing to overturn a 19-point deficit in the season decider in Kirov from 2-4 March. Returning for his first ice climbing competition in 2018, World Champion HeeYong Park offered style and poise on route to taking bronze. Leader going into the weekend, Mohammadreza Safdarian finished fifth relegating the Iranian (263) to third place in the season’s rankings.

Watch Again: Lead Finals from Cheongsong

A full review from Cheongsong will be available on Tuesday 13 February.

The 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour concludes from 2-4 March with the final World Cup event of the season in Kirov, Russia.

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Final results, starting lists and season rankings are available here.

Pictures from the 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour – and Cheongsong – are available on the UIAA Flickr channel.

All images copyright: UIAA/Rhea Kang (KAF)