The biennial UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships, partnered by The North Face Korea, take place in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France this weekend, 4-5 February. The World Championships is the pinnacle event in the UIAA ice climbing calendar.

After five World Cup events in as many countries and on three continents over a six-week period, the athletes competing in the 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing season have, despite a challenging schedule, produced consistently breathtaking and competitive displays of ice climbing. Now one last effort. While Champagny also hosts the World Youth Championships from 10-11 February, this weekend marks the conclusion of an enthralling season for most athletes. Just over 125 ice climbers representing some 25 countries are expected to compete.

UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt addresses the audience at the 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Beijing

“The 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing season has been the biggest yet,” explains the UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt. “Viewing figures for the UIAA Ice Climbing events are on the rise and more and more countries are committing athletes to the events and expressing a strong interest in the sport. The season has also highlighted the competitive nature of ice climbing with almost all competitions decided by the finest of margins. It is fitting that we close the main season with the pinnacle event, the World Championships, hosted in one of the most iconic ice climbing venues on the planet.”

The venue quite rightly enjoys a strong reputation. “The structure in Champagny, measuring over twenty meters, is unique in Europe. Due to the particular climate, it is possible to create ice walls for all levels. The ice climbing quality on this structure is internationally recognized,” explains resort Competition Director Nils Guillotin.

Over two million people have already followed the UIAA Ice Climbing season, record numbers of the sport aided by the increased and improved video coverage through the UIAA’s social media channels, notably YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

HeeYong Park, 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season champion in lead

A UIAA World Championship gold medal is the most coveted prize in ice climbing. For the next two years, four athletes will enjoy the status of defending world champion, in lead and speed. The stakes are high. One slip, one tactical error, one moment of indecision or poor concentration and your chance is gone. In winning the five-event World Cup series, there is some margin for error. In Champagny, the ice wall will be unforgiving.

The reigning World Champions are Maxim Tomilov (RUS) and Shin Woonseon (KOR) in lead and Alexey Vagin (RUS) and Ekaterina Koshcheeva (RUS) in speed.

Tomilov, 31, is four-time World Cup season champion in lead. He will be the first to admit that the 2017 season has not been his strongest. Yet he remains remarkably consistent, claiming a podium spot in four out of five World Cup events. The gold though has eluded him. Until now. Tomilov will undoubtedly be among the frontrunners. In this discipline, HeeYong Park, 34, from Korea has been the class act. Three golds in back to back weekends in Cheonsgong, Saas Fee and Rabenstein mark him out as the form athlete. Tomilov’s older brother Alexey, 33, finished the regular season in fifth place and is another consistent climber. Fellow Russians Nikolai Kuzovlev, 34,and Alexey Dengin, 34, have also enjoyed strong World Cup campaigns. Yet while the World Championships demands consistency over three rounds of competition, its one off nature may open the door for other talents of note. Swiss Yannick Glatthard (left) is only 19 and on his day is as dexterous and nimble as anyone on an ice wall. Slovenia’s Janez Svoljsak, 23, and Canada’s rising star Noah Beek, 20, will also see this as chance to signal their arrival on the world stage.

Defending women’s champion Shin Woonseon, 36, finished the 2017 World Cup season in fourth place. Her mid-season form dipped after a gold and silver in the first two events. However, a bronze in Rabenstein suggests a return to her best. Her compatriot Han Na Rai Song, 24, was the star of the women’s lead season. Like Park, she won the final three events. Her elegant, balletic style makes her a distinctive presence on the wall. Italy’s Angelika Rainer, 30, claimed two silvers to finish second in the season rankings. Another remarkable and experienced athlete who will be in prime contention. Russia’s Maria Tolokonina, 29, finished on the season podium in both lead (third) and speed (joint first) and is always in the conversation when it comes to the leaderboard. Ireland’s Eimir McSwiggan, 38, two World Cup podium places, and the likes of Russia’s Maryam Filippova, 35, and Mariia Edler, 26, are not be discounted. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s Petra Klingler, 24, features among the registered athletes despite sustaining a knee injury while climbing in the Lead finals in Saas Fee two weekends ago.

In speed, defending champion and seasoned ice climber Vagin, 45, is making his first appearance of the season. Can he make a stunning return to competition? On form Russia’s Vladimir Kartashev, 22, is the favourite but the challenge from several of his compatriots will be fierce. Pavel Batushev, 29, also enjoyed an excellent season with two golds; Radomir Proschchenko, 20, claimed World Cup gold in Durango and fellow youngster Leonid Malykh, 22, (climbing left in Rabenstein) quietly enjoyed a strong breakthrough campaign.

After an excellent season, Koshcheeva, 21, will be in strong contention to defend her speed crown. She finished the five-World Cup series in joint first with Tolokonina. Yet the speed discipline, with climbs decided by split second margins, is often the most unpredictable. Ekaterina Feoktistova, 22, Filippova and Nadezhda Gallyamova, 28, also provide strong Russian potential. Looking further afield, France’s Marion Thomas, 21, broke onto the scene impressively this year and will be boosted by home support. Kendra Stritch, 34, (USA), top ten at all events, and Poland’s Olga Kosek, 25, should be watched closely.

The event is not only about gold medals and winning performances; for many athletes it is about personal development, achieving goals and ending a fantastic season in style.

Livestreaming will be available from the semi-finals and finals of both the lead and speed disciplines. Coverage is produced by QTV Sports and commentary comes from Liam Lonsdale.

Programme. Key Events.
Saturday 4 February
19:30-21:00 Lead, Semi-Finals
Sunday 5 February
09:00-12:30 Speed, Finals
15:30-17:30 Lead, Finals

The full programme can be downloaded here.


Photography: UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season
Video features & livestreaming: UIAA YouTube, UIAA Facebook
News updates: UIAA Twitter
Live results: UIAA Results Centre
Registered Athletes
UIAA & Ice Climbing
UIAA & 2022 Olympic Winter Games


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