The 2019 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Saas-Fee, Switzerland which concluded on Saturday 26 January was one to remember. The third competition in the six-round World Cup season, partnered by Outdoor Research, provided compelling drama and no little success for the host country. A fitting way for Saas-Fee to celebrate 20-years of its association with the ice climbing world tour.
Lead Finals: Success for Switzerland
Making his return to the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup, young Swiss athlete Yannick Glatthard won his first ever gold medal with a mesmeric climb in Saturday evening’s showpiece lead finals. Glatthard produced a flawless performance to defeat the imperious Russian athlete Nikolai Kuzovlev who had to settle for silver. Bronze medal went to another Swiss athlete in Nikolay Primerov. Glatthard’s last UIAA competition dates back to his memorable performance in 2017’s World Championships where he medalled silver after a virtuoso display. Drawn back to the competition environment, he was the star performer throughout the lead event. Despite a stunning performance from Kuzovlev in topping the route in the penultimate climb of the men’s final, Glatthard emerged from the isolation zone, cool, composed and calculated. Having hours to mentally and meticulously prepare his route and every manoeuvre was evident. Having been 40 seconds off the pace at one point, Glatthard eventually defeated Kuzovlev by over a minute. In the overall World Tour standings, Kuzovlev remains in pole position ahead of South Koreans Lee Younggeon and Heeyong Park. Overall Rankings
The biggest surprise in the women’s Finals was an uncharacteristic slip from favourite Maria Tolokonina just minutes into her climb, the final ascent of the women’s competition. This allowed Woonseon Shin, one of two athletes to top the route, to claim gold. In the process Shin closes the gap at the top of the season rankings which Tolokonina still heads. Switzerland’s Sina Goetz took silver in her first ever Finals, topping the route, and bronze went to Shin’s South Korean teammate Hannarai Song. Finland’s Enni Bertling again impressed, finishing fifth behind Maryam Filippova of Russia. Overall Rankings
Relive: Lead Finals
Speed Finals: No stopping Nemov
Russia’s Anton Nemov set the fastest time on the Saas-Fee ice wall on Friday evening to secure a second gold medal of the season. Nemov’s blistering time of 07.60 seconds was enough to see off compatriot Vladislav Iurlov by a mere fraction of a second (07.61). The momentum-building men’s speed final saw the eight-second barrier broken five times. A best time of 07.86 was enough to secure Nikolai Kuzovlev a bronze medal just ahead of Iran’s rising star Mohsen Rad Beheshti whose fastest was 07.98. The Speed finals in Saas-Fee work differently to other events. There is no duel format. Instead sixteen athletes have three attempts to set the fastest time on the wall. It means athletes can focus entirely on their own climb rather than focus on directly defeating another athlete. Nemov heads the season rankings leading Iurlov by a mere five points. Overall Rankings.
On a cold evening in the Swiss resort, where the ice became more brittle as the competition unfolded, Russia’s Valeriia Bogdan with a time of 09.38 took gold saving her best performance for last. Ekaterina Koshcheeva (10.27), winner last weekend in Cheongsong, claimed silver ahead of Natalia Savitskaia (11.09). Koshcheeva, World Champion, leads the women’s speed standings ahead of Tolokonina. Challenging the Russian athletes is the USA’s Kendra Stritch, in fifth. Overall Rankings.
Relive: Speed Finals
Athlete Profile: Yannick Glatthard
The UIAA thanks all of the organisers and partners for making the 2019 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Saas-Fee a special event. The next stop on the World Tour is Rabenstein, Italy from 1-3 February. Full details and programme here.
Main picture: France’s Marion Thomas, finalist in both speed and lead.
Photo: UIAA/Kaspar Kellerhals