Baku, Azerbaijan: Anna Stohr and Shauna Coxsey had both flashed three problems in the Bouldering World Cup. If they both flashed the final problem, Shauna would still win, having a higher score than Anna in the semi-finals. Surely this was Shauna’s time? Mina Leslie-Wujastyk reports.
As soon as the China World Cup was finished, we were on the road to the next one: destination Baku, Azerbaijan. Having never been to this part of the world before, both Shauna and I were intrigued to see what it was like. After a long day travelling, we drove through the city at night and it was clear that we were in quite a spectacular place: the city boasts incredible architecture, both old and new, with a huge amount of continuing development going on.
The actual competition was right on the Caspian Sea at Flag Square – a fantastic location aesthetically, although the wind and the sun were punishing for competitors.
At this event, we were pleased to be joined by two other GB Bouldering Team members: Jennifer Wood and Orrin Cowley. Both Jen and Orrin were making their debut in the senior World Cups and Shauna and I were pleased to share in their experience and excitement.
Qualifiers day came and, as the men were first up, Jen, Shauna and I were there in full force to support Orrin. He was pretty nervous, it is quite an intimidating prospect to be warming up and competing against the likes of Killian Fischhuber, Dmitri Sharafutdinov and Jan Hojer.
Orrin did us proud; he came out with a determined air and climbed really well on what was an unusually hard set of qualifying blocs. In a field of 38 men, Orrin came 22nd, narrowly missing out on semi-finals, a fantastic effort.
Next it was time for the ladies. Shauna was the first GB climber out and she sailed up most of the problems, a safe 5 in 8, putting her in 4th. I was next, and although I managed 3 in 3, I couldn’t work out the third problem and didn’t quite have the distance on the dyno on the last problem. It was a nerve-wracking wait but I made semi-finals by the skin of my teeth in joint 19th place.
Jen started off great, flashing the first problem with ease. Unfortunately she then split two fingertips on the second problem, which hindered her thereafter, but she pushed on to give it her best, placing in 27th - a valiant effort.
Day two and Shauna and I headed into semi-finals. I climbed first and the women’s problems were tough. I topped the first bloc, but unfortunately it took me three attempts, which pushed me into 14th place (a flash of this boulder earned 7th place).
Only two tops were required to make finals and Shauna achieved that, making her way into yet another World Cup final. Joining her in the women’s were Mina Markovic, Anna Stohr, Jule Wurm, Akyio Noguchi and Alex Puccio.
In the men’s field the finalists were Dmitri Sharafutdinov, Rustam Gelmanov, Killian Fischhuber, Jeremy Bonder, Jan Hojer and Kokoro Fujii.
The finals were interesting. For the men it was close, but the women were closer. Dmitri won the gold with three tops, while Jan and Rustam took second and third respectively, both with two tops, separated by number of attempts. The women’s final was tight indeed.
All the problems were getting done, with Anna and Shauna flashing the first three. On the last problem they were in joint first (with Akiyo one attempt behind) but if they both flashed it, Shauna would win on count-back, having a higher score than Anna in the semi-finals. Anna climbed first and she flashed it with ease.
This was the moment. We watched with excitement, fully expecting to witness the first (and truly deserved) female GB Boulder World Cup win. Shauna came out, relaxed and confident, and pulled on to the boulder problem. She moved well and looked strong but after a couple of moves (from what seemed to us out of nowhere) the judge called her down. She had apparently dabbed the pad with her right foot and was told to start again. Shauna briefly disputed it but then professionally got back to the task at hand and sailed up the boulder.
It was unclear to us whether this dab had occurred; Shauna had not felt it and we had not seen it. We appealed the judge’s decision and the footage was reviewed but it seems there was a dab, which put Shauna in third place (Akiyo took second on count-back). A heartbreakingly close call, but also a solid demonstration of her ability.
I asked Shauna some questions about her experience:
Mina: What an emotional rollercoaster. When you came out to attempt the last boulder were you aware that if you flashed it you would win? And, if so, did this have an impact on your nerves or performance?
Shauna: It was impossible to know for sure, but I had a pretty good idea. I knew I had to do it fast. Of course I was nervous but I felt confident and excited too. The only thing that impacted my performance was the mat…
Mina: It seemed to onlookers that the final blocs might have been too easy. What did you think of the setting at this event?
Shauna: The final boulders were definitely too easy which is such a shame. I think we deserve to battle in finals. I believe the mats were only under the boulders from Thursday, so I appreciate that this made the difficult job of route setting even harder but it is still extremely frustrating.
Mina: The dreaded dab – you said you didn’t feel it; you must have been confused when the judge called you off? What went though your mind?
Shauna: I was in my own little bubble of psyche and concentration when the judge called me off, so I had no clue what was going on. I had to ask why I was called off. There is no point in arguing at that point though all you can do is refocus and get back on.
Mina: Appealing is always a tricky decision, was it the right thing to do?
Shauna: I have never appealed before. I didn’t even know how to go about it. I feel that it was the right decision despite feeling guilty. I genuinely didn’t know if I dabbed or not. I didn’t feel anything so I figured it was worth getting a second opinion.
Mina: You can’t get much closer to winning. With some distance from the moment, how does this now make you feel about your performance and ability moving forward?
Shauna: I would be lying if I said that the frustration has fully subsided. But I couldn’t be any happier with my climbing. I’m really looking forward to the next competition; at least we don’t have to wait long.
1 – Anna Stohr, Dmitrii Sharafutdinov
2 – Akiyo Noguchi, Jan Hojer
3 – Shauna Coxsey, Rustam Gelmanov
4 – Jule Wurm, Killian Fischhuber
5 – Mina Markovic, Jeremy Bonder
6 – Alex Puccio, Kokoro Fujii.
Shauna Coxsey – 3rd
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk – 14th
Orrin Coley – 22nd
Jennifer Wood – 27th
Full results on the IFSC site
Watch the next World Cup
The next stop on the IFSC Boulder World Cup tour is Grindlewald, 10-11 May. We'll keep you posted of the webstream times.