Russians, Italians and Austrians win at Ice Climbing World Championships

The Austrian climber Markus Bendler, and Russian and Italian athletes were the big winners at the Ice Climbing World Championships that concluded in the Swiss resort of Saas Fee on January 24.

Bendler won the men’s competition in the Lead event repeating his success from Val Daone and becoming Men’s World Champion. Angelika Rainer from Italy was the only woman to reach the top and took the World Championship gold medal. The Italian team from the Alpine Club of South Tirol (AVS) were also thrilled to take second place in the men’s Lead with Herbert Klammer.

Russians dominated the Speed events taking gold and silver. Pavel Gulyaev was the top man while Maria Tolokonina finished first among the women.

“I had one big goal this season and that was to win the overall World Cup or the World Championship. Now it has happened.” said an overjoyed Bendler, who again thrilled spectators by climbing the furthest up the route, much of which was sharply overhanging.

After her success Rainer spoke of the tensions before a big competitive event. “Yesterday I had not slept well and had an upset stomach and did not climb so well. But today I was quite relaxed. It’s great. I am so happy.”

The Lead discipline involves a long, difficult climb, reaching heights of up to 35m. Speed climbing, as the name suggests, involves top athletes climbing an approximately 15m high vertical ice wall in as little as 13 seconds.

Around 2,000 spectators followed the exciting competition, which took place in the round tower of Saas-Fee’s 10-storey car park. The covered structure enables the competitions to be held whatever the weather and offers a marvellous backdrop for Ice Climbing fans.

Michael Schwarzl, president of the Saas Fee organising committee, said the spiral car park is what makes this event unique. “It’s the location – many spectators can watch the competitors climb up close and this creates a fantastic ambiance. It’s sport and entertainment at the same time,” Schwarzl enthused.

The Ice Climbing World Cup season opened on January 16 with a successful and adrenaline-filled event in Daone, Italy, dominated by Bendler and Tolokonina.

The World Cup series continues on January 31 in Mojstrana, Slovenia with the second Speed stage.

The UIAA governs Ice Climbing as a competitive sport and is responsible for the organisation and promotion of the Ice Climbing World Cup and International Championships.