Rabenstein was host to the grand finale of the UIAA ice climbing competition season this weekend, which featured some surprising podium places, and some notable absences too. Liam Lonsdale brings us the story behind the results.
And so another round is complete, as is another season. Rabenstein marked the final stop of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour and the Eisturm Rabenstein was prepped and ready for another spectacular event.
Local legend Angelika Rainer was hotly tipped to take the top spot and was a favourite amongst the crowds. Swiss competitors Petra Klingler and Yannick Glathard were fresh from their silver and bronze medals respectively in Saas-Fee and were hungry for more. Maxim Tomilov and Maria Tolokonina were also gunning for more gold medals, with Maxim already winning three this season, while Maria's collection has grown to five.
The competition got off to a good start and after an initial worry about conditions, the temperature dropped and the ice was primed and ready.
Unfortunately it was another non-starter for Team GB to cap off a season in which they have been frustratingly close to making the semi-finals multiple times. However, it has to be said that throughout the season they have continued to show incredible spirit and resolve. It seems likely that the team will be able to build on the experiences and training from this year to come back much stronger in the next.
Speed finals took place on Saturday evening and, after Koshcheeva took gold in Saas-Fee, all eyes were firmly fixed on her and Tolokonina as they battled it out for the last available speed gold of the season. Kosheeva failed to maintain momentum and Tolokonina came out on top with a decisive victory.
In the men's speed finals, all the usual big-guns qualified for finals once more, including the flying dutchman Dennis Van Hoek and Iranian strongman Mohammadreza Safdarian. However, it wasn't any of the 'usual' big hitters on the top spot this time. Radomir Proschenko, in his first completion of the season, dominated the speed and took the gold medal, with Egor Trapeznikov taking second and Pawel Batushev taking third.
The usual suspects made it through to lead semi-finals and after a very close run in the semis, with some challenging and athletic routes to battle with and some tricky scoring for the judges, the finals were ready to go.
Sunday afternoon saw the weather turn and with a rain cloud firmly fixed over Rabenstein, the crowds were well within their rights to stay at home. Not allowing the weather to dampen their spirits, however, the locals turned out in force to see who would take gold.
Maria Tolokonina and Angelika Rainer both fell reasonably low down on the route and were shock exits from the competition. Maxim and Alexey Tomilov also struggled to find the necessary height to be in with a chance of a podium. After a tense wait and a thrilling competition Fillipova took bronze, Klingler took silver and after a frustrating season of 'almosts' Han Na Rai Song finally took gold.
Following a tough season, Han Na Rai Song was delighted to get her first win: "I tried so hard all season and made some mistakes which cost me at every round. Finally everything came together and thank god I climbed to the top to win gold. Thank you everyone for your support."
In the men's competition, the battle for the podium was heated and the smallest mistakes proved to be costly. An unfortunate delay of getting tangled in his rope slowed down HeeYong Park to take the bronze medal. Yannick Glathard showed amazing promise again but, after suffering with rope drag, he took the silver medal.
Meanwhile, the gold medal was reserved for the young Slovenian Janez Svoljsak, the first in his World Cup climbing career. In a thoroughly exciting finish he clipped the chains with only two seconds to spare, leaving no doubt as to who was the winner of the final Lead Competition of the season. It's also worth pointing out that this is the first men's podium (we think in over a decade) that there has been no Russian presence.
Janez Svoljsak was exuberant following his first top spot: "I'm so happy to have won my first gold here. It's the first elite gold medal for a Slovenian ice climber and I know that the whole country is really proud of me. I can't wait for next year!"
And so with the season over, there are now 10 months until the first round of the 2017 season and an entire IFSC World Cup season to boot too ... stay tuned!
1) Janez Svoljsak (SLO)
2) Yannick Glatthard (SUI)
3) HeeYong Park (KOR)
QUALIFYERS GROUP A
45) Joe Saunders (GBR)
45) Will Woodhead (GBR)
45) Scott Grosdanoff (GBR)
QUALIFYERS GROUP B
19) Thomas Ballard (GBR)
20) Harry Holmes (GBR)
28) Simon Ward (GBR)
1) Han Na Rai Song (KOR)
2) Petra Klinger (SUI)
3) Maryam Filippova (RUS)
24) Anna-Marie Wells (GBR)
1) Radomir Proshchenko (RUS)
2) Egor Trapeznikov (RUS)
3) Pavel Batushev (RUS)
35) Harry Holmes (GBR)
1) Maria Tolokonina (RUS)
2) Ekaterina Koshcheeva (RUS)
3) Maryam Filippova (RUS)
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