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The first act of the 2020 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season proved to be a terrific event for France. In the men’s lead competition, youngster Louna Ladevant claimed a first ever World Cup gold with compatriot Marion Thomas (main photo) securing bronze in a pulsating female competition. The results come after intense and extensive pre-season from the team. Nearly 80 athletes competed in the competition in Changchun City, China. This year’s World Tour, partnered by Outdoor Research, features three World Cups with rounds in South Korea and Switzerland lying ahead.

Lead Competition

Men’s lead: Ladevant, 19, is an athlete on the rise. At three World Cups last season, he registered two top five finishes and with that experience and the pathway which the UIAA Ice Climbing European Cups has provided, he has grown in both confidence and ability. Having topped the route in Changchun throughout the qualification period, he climbed highest in the final round to see off the challenge of Mohammadreza Safdarian and Heeyong Park. Safdarian, from Iran, had made the biggest impression in the semi-final and his performance in China suggests a return to his 2017-2018 form, when he won a historic gold in Rabenstein, is likely. Park, from South Korea, added a bronze to his impressive haul of World Cup medals. Ladevant’s older brother Tristan secured fourth place with another Korean athlete – YoungHye Kwon coming fifth. The final also featured Russia’s Ilia Kurochkin and Alexey Dengin and another Frenchman, Nathan Clair.

Women’s lead: The fascinating duel between two legends of the World Tour – Woonseon Shin of South Korea and Russia’s Maria Tolokonina – continues. The two athletes claimed all of last season’s gold medals. In China, it was Shin who claimed gold topping the final route some 49 seconds faster than her rival. Behind them were perhaps the eventual successors to these great athletes. Marion Thomas of France claimed an excellent bronze and Switzerland’s Sina Goetz, star of the recent European season, finished fourth. Russia’s Ekaterina Vlasova, fifth and Dariya Minina, eighth; Ireland’s Eimir McSwiggan, sixth, and Haruko Takeuchi of Japan, seventh, completed the finalists.

Speed Competition

Men’s speed: Defending World Tour champion Anton Nemov laid down an earlier marker by winning the speed competition. He won both final climbs against teammate Nikita Glazyrin and in the process with a time of 7.19 set the fastest time of the weekend. The imperious Nikolai Kuzovlev had to settle for bronze winning his ‘small final’ against Mongolia’s Kherlen Nyamdoo. The final featured a wider range of nationalities than recent speed competitions. Canada’s David Bouffard and China’s Zhang Dingfeng were also in contention.

Women’s speed: Tolokonina also won silver in the speed event having lost her final to Russian teammate Valeriia Bogdan. The latter’s time of 9.68 seconds was the only sub 10-second climb in the final. Alena Vlasova, also of Russia, took bronze defeating Ekaterina Timokhina. The highest place non-Russian was local athlete Han Cancan with Marion Thomas again performing impressively to finish in the top eight along with Finland’s Enni Bertling.

The World Tour heads to one of its traditional hotspots next weekend. Cheongsong, South Korea will host round 2 from 10-12 January. Livestreaming will be available from the UIAA YouTube and Facebook pages. Full details will be published shortly.

All results from Changchun City can be found here.

Featured Content

Features will be produced throughout the 2019-2020 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour to offer greater insight into the sport, athletes and teams. This week’s profile focuses on the rise of Team USA.

Photos, courtesy of Nathan Kutcher, can be downloaded from the UIAA Flickr account.