Athletes competing in this year's thrilling UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup converged on Cheongsong, South Korea. Over 100 participants from 18 countries battled with their axes on the gruelingly steep terrain – here's how it went down.
Following the qualifiers and semi-finals, there was a great spread of nationalities through to the finals, with a special mention for Irish climber Eimer McSwiggan who pulled out all the stops and managed to qualify for her first ever lead finals in fourth place. Another special mention is owed to Iranian climber Mohammadreza Safdarian who also qualified for his first finals in join seventh place, the first finals for an Iranian climber too.
British climber Anna Wells made semi-finals after a great performance in qualifiers, but unfortunately it wasn't her day and she fell low down on the semi-finals route. Hopefully she will show the same determination in Saas Fee because there is no doubt she has got the strength to climb well in a World Cup finals.
After a below par performance in the preliminaries on Saturday, Vladimir Kartashev left the rest of the field in his dust as he cruised to a victory and his first gold medal of the season – just a few tenths of a second from a sub-seven finish. In the women's speed competition, Maria Tolokonina came from fifth in the field to take a decisive win and claim her third gold medal of the season (lead and speed in Bozeman).
In the women's lead finals, Maria Tolokinina again put in a fantastic performance, climbing higher than all of the climbers before her on the route and with only crowd-favourite & newly crowned Korean Champion Han Na Rai Song to climb. The crowd held their breath as they waited to see if Song could surpass the efforts of the pint-sized Russian, but a fall low down on the route relegated her to fourth place and Tolokonina took her fourth gold medal of the season. There is absolutely no doubt that Maria Tolokonina is on the form of her life at the moment.
In the men's competition, the Tomilov brothers both put in extraordinary performance. Maxim managed to climb slightly further than his brother and was leading the field in first place. HeeYong Park of South Korea, very much the crowd pleaser, managed to match the score of Maxim Tomilov in both height and time. The judges called for a Super Final.
Tomilov climbed first, looking fatigued in places and managed to put in a decent performance, reaching just over the half-way point on the route. Next up, and with the local crowd firmly behind him, HeeYong Park set off to put in his final attempt of the event. Losing his footing a few times low down, it looked as though Park too may have been worn out from two days of competition. However, as soon as he gained height and got into the steeper more difficult sections, he found his rhythm and composure and cruised past Tomilov’s highpoint and to the top of the competition wall to finish the event in style – a swan dive off the Ice-Barrel volume at the top of the wall.
On his first victory on home turf, HeeYong Park said: “I am super happy because I waited for six years [for the gold medal in Korea]. There are so many Korean supporters and I won this because of them. I am very excited for the next two competitions.”
The tour continues in Saas Fee, Switzerland next weekend and Rabenstein, Italy the week after.
LEAD – Males
1) HeeYong Park (KOR)
2) Maxim Tomilov (RUS)
3) Alexey Tomilov (RUS)
4) Valentyn Spavin (UKR)
5) Nikolai Kuzovlev (RUS)
6) Janez Svoljsak
7) Mohammadreza Safdarian
8) Junghee Han
27) Tom Ballard (GBR)
41) Will Woodhead (GBR)
LEAD – Females
1) Maria Tolokonina (RUS)
2) Woonseon Shin (KOR)
3) Ekaterina Vlasova (RUS)
4) Han Na Rai Song (KOR)
5) MyoungHee Lee (KOR)
6) Mariia Edler (RUS)
7) Emir McSwiggan (IRL)
8) Maria Kuznetsova (RUS)
19) Anna Wells (GBR)
24) Victoria Harvey (GBR)
SPEED – Males
1) Vladimir Kartashev (RUS)
2) Alexey Vagin (RUS)
3) Maxim Vlasov (RUS)
4) Maxim Tomilov (RUS)
SPEED – Females
1) Maria Tolokonina (RUS)
2) Maryam Filippova (RUS)
3) Ekaterina Koshcheeva (RUS)
4) Natalya Kulikova (RUS)
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