Saas-Fee, Switzerland witnessed an exciting deciding round of the 2020 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season, partnered by Outdoor Research.
Gold medal winners in the Swiss Alps during the weekend of 24-25 January were: Anton Nemov (speed) and Louna Ladevant (lead) in the men’s competition. Irina Dubovtseva (speed) and Maria Tolokonina (lead) took the women’s titles.
The overall World Tour crowns were claimed by:
Louna Ladevant, FRA, men’s lead
Anton Nemov, RUS, men’s speed
Maria Tolokonina, RUS, women’s lead and speed
Once again, as it has for the past 20 years, Saas-Fee put on a stunning spectacle and proved an excellent World Cup host. The venue is one of the candidates to stage the pinnacle event in the sport – the biennial UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships which next take place in 2021.
Men’s lead: The World Tour leader failed to make the final. Iran’s Mohammadreza Safdarian held a slender lead in the overall rankings going into the Switzerland decider. His misfortune in the semi-finals left the battle to become 2020 World Tour champion wide open. Winner in Cheongsong, Maxsim Tomilov was unable to compete leaving Louna Ladevant of France (above) and defending champion Nikolai Kuzovlev of Russia as the two favourites. And so it proved. During the nail-biting final competition, Ladevant had to watch Kuzovlev give an assured, controlled performance to reach the 15th quickdraw. Later on, South Koreans Heeyong Park and Younghye Kwon both failed to make significant progress on a tricky route. Stupendous in Changchun during round 1, Ladevant performed disappointingly last time out in Cheongsong failing to make the final. In Switzerland, he started with confidence and in an assured manner, keeping an even pace as he became the first athlete to top the route. As he sat in the leader’s chair he knew his advantage was a precarious one. Last year’s winner Yannick Glatthard, the local hero, and Russian newcomer Vadim Malschukov, star of the semi-finals, still had to climb. Ultimately Ladevant had little to worry about as both climbers lost their balance in similar fashion denying the crowd a gripping finale. Ladevant, two gold medals to his name in three events, took the season’s title ahead of Kuzovlev and Kwon.
Women’s lead: Whoever climbed highest between eternal rivals Woonseon Shin of South Korea and Russia’s all-conquering Maria Tolokonina would take the World Tour title. Shin was to climb first in the final giving a measured performance but one where understandable fatigue crept in during a decisive final minute. That left their door open for her two principal rivals, Tolokonina and Sina Goetz (below), of Switzerland. There was very little to choose between the athletes as Tolokonina was able to maintain her momentum for longer to climb higher. The ever-impressive Goetz claimed silver and finished the season in third position. France’s Marion Thomas confirms her development, finishing both fourth in Saas-Fee and fifth overall behind Ekaterina Vlasova, Russia.
Men’s speed: He registered the three fastest times of the evening (6.77, 6.79 and 6.22). He is the undisputed master of speed climbing. Anton Nemov perhaps reserved his most virtuoso performance to date for Saas-Fee’s testing ice wall. His opponents could only watch on in awe as their own feats of excellence were constantly put into context by Russia’s speed king. Nemov took Saas-Fee gold and the World Tour crown both for the second year running following performances of flawless beauty in the final. Silver was claimed by newcomer Vadim Malschukov (6.85) and compatriot Nikita Glazyrin (6.99) took bronze. Nemov was the star, and Russia dominated in customary fashion, but a number of other athletes emerged with credible performances – notably Safdarian (7.54), France’s Tristan Ladevant (7.79) and Finland’s Pauli Salminen (8.99). Glazyrin finished second overall in the World Tour rankings and former speed champion Nikolai Kuzovlev, third.
Women’s speed: For the World Title, Russia’s Maria Tolokonina and Valeriia Bogdan were locked one equal points with a gold and silver each to date. Whoever climbed fastest would take the World Title. Bogdan failed to perform to her best registering 9.12 with Tolokonina’s 8.65 enough to seal another seasonal crown. However, the star on the night was Irina Dubovtseva whose time of 8.40 owed plenty to aggression and determination. Former world champion Ekaterina Timokhina finished fourth. Tolokonina, Bogdan and Alena Vlasova finished the season as the top three. The star was the imperious Tolokonina, World Tour winner in two different disciplines. She has now won the Lead World Tour title on six occasions and speed seven times.
Although the World Cup season is now over there’s still a lot of competition ice climbing ahead including Continental Cups in Iran and Finland and the annual UIAA Ice Climbing World Youth Championships in Kirov, Russia. All the details can be found here.
Saas-Fee – men’s lead, women’s lead, men’s speed, women’s speed
Season Rankings – men’s lead, women’s lead, men’s speed, women’s speed
European Continental Cup – men’s lead, women’s lead, men’s speed, women’s speed, team
Main photo: UIAA/Kaspar Kellerhals
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