Russia is a country that produces Speed climbing champions by the dozens but Nikolai Kuzovlev is proving that he’s the best of them.
First he beat fellow Russians Egor Trapeznikov, 2013’s overall UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour Speed champion in the Bozeman Speed final, then Maxim Vlasov in Cheongsong, Korea and today Leonid Malykh in Saas Fee, Switzerland.
That’s what you call dominance.
And he did it in style and with apparent ease.
Malykh posted 8.77 seconds in his first attempt, a time that left the crowd in amazement. That was nothing compared to the cheers from the crowd when Kuzovlev answered Malykh’s 8.77 seconds with his own 7.99 seconds.
Not satisfied, Kuzovlev then beat his own first attempt with his third and final run of 7.82 seconds.
What’s amazing is that Kuzovlev is not only a Speed climber like many of his fellow Russians. He’s also a top-level Lead climber, consistently placing himself in the Lead finals – something he showed he could win, as was the case when he won the Lead final in Champagny-en-Vanoise last year.
There’s no one on the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour who comes close to matching his all-round capabilities.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Lead finals today, Ekaterina Koscheeva of Russia out-duelled Julia Oleynikova to win the Speed title.
In her first attempt Oleynikova posted 13.69 seconds, to which Koscheeva responded with a 13.21 second run. Oleynikova in her second attempt raised the bar considerably with a 11.63 second run, which Koscheeva bested with 11.36 seconds.
That was good enough to win because Oleynikova fell in her third attempt and other contenders such as Maria Krasavina who fell in her first climb and other fellow Russians were nowhere near the threats they could have been.
The big story of the day during the Men and Women’s Lead qualification round was the collapse of Korean superstar Park Hee Yong, who fell after a precarious undercut hold.
Just last year, Park had wowed the audiences with a spectacular display of prowess as he made his way to the top that veterans of the ice climbing scene say will be remembered for years.
Things became worse for the Korean Men’s team because no other male athlete made it past the qualification round.
The Lead front also produced strong showings by young climbers, especially the Swiss represented by Petra Klinger, who led the Women’s list into the next round, and Yannick Glathard, who was 3rd in Group A preceded only by Maxim Tomilov and Alexey Dengin of Russia.
Also making it into the next round and the finals which take place on Saturday 24 January 2015 was the young U.S. climber Justin Willis of Bozeman, Montana, who was making his first appearance in Saas Fee.