At the beginning of April, the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra kicked off the 2019 Bouldering World Cup season by topping the fourth boulder in a nail-biting event that went down to the wire in At last weekend’s competition in Munich, Germany, he had the chance to author an identical, thrilling script.
Ondra topped four boulders in his qualification group to advance to the men’s semi-final round. There, he shot to the top of the pack by topping all four boulders. In the final round, he managed to pull away from a stacked field that included German hometown favorite Jan Hojer, Austria’s Jakob Schubert, Russia’s Aleksey Rubtsov, Slovenia’s Anze Peharc, and South Korea’s Jongwon Chon. Ondra was the only competitor who successfully guppy-gripped his way to a top on the first boulder (51:18 in the livestream), and he cruised through the second boulder of Blue Pill slopers and topped the slabby third boulder too.
As the last competitor to attempt the fourth boulder, Ondra was primed to give another “Hollywood ending” to a World Cup event. Schubert and Hojer had already topped the long, powerful boulder, so Ondra’s top would clinch the win in climactic style.
But something unexpected happened during Ondra’s initial attempt. He did not reach the top, and did not secure the zone hold. In fact, he did not look comfortable with the dynamic style, the requisite airborne sequence of brachiating from sloper to sloper with momentum. Ondra tried another attempt, but again his dynamic movement did not look smooth and he failed to make progress.
“Traditionally you would have thought Adam Ondra would find a bit of a trick, find a heel hook, find something to drag with the toes—but he has gone with the campus method,” noted commentator Mike Langley on Ondra’s adherence to his anti-style. “This is where the game gets really interesting.”
Ondra's victory was no longer a foregone conclusion. It was in jeopardy. The clock ticked down and Ondra muscled through more attempts, swinging desperately for a zone hold to no avail. A final attempt with only ten seconds remaining resonated like a last gasp. To the surprise of many, the Hollywood narrative had swerved. Schubert, not Ondra, was the winner (having topped three boulders and secured the zone on another). Ondra descended to second place in the scores, and Hojer placed third.
Garnbret Stays Perfect
If Schubert’s defeat of Ondra at the end of the men’s portion felt like a swerve, the women’s portion was the same ol’ story that we have heard many times before. Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret continued her season of utter domination, aided by the fact that her biggest rivals—Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka, and Great Britain’s Shauna Coxsey—did not take part in the Munich competition.
Garnbret topped every boulder in her qualification group. She promptly underscored such supremacy by topping every boulder in the semi-final round as well. Other competitors had their moments in the final round; Ukraine’s Ievgeniia Kazbekova and France’s Fanny Gibert—along with Garnbret—were the only competitors to top the slab of the second boulder, for instance. And Gibert, in particular, latched onto Garnbret in the scores, as both women finished the finals with tops of each boulder in the round.
But in a sport of increments, Garnbret was just a notch better on every ascent, usually flashing and rarely staying on the wall for longer than a minute. “You can’t help but feel slightly sorry for Fanny Gibert,” said commentator Langley. “She has just come good in the era of Janja Garnbret.”
With smooth progression up the arête and Blocz volumes to top the fourth boulder (3:37.48 in the livestream), Garnbret not only secured the 2019 Bouldering World Cup season title, but she did so in impeccable fashion: by earning a perfect season score of 500 points. Gibert finished the competition at Munich in second place, and Slovenia’s Mia Krampl placed third.
While we’re on the subject of Krampl, it is worth mentioning the grit and determination she displayed throughout the finals. Hindered by a left knee injury, she could barely walk as she approached the base of the opening boulder in the round. The fact that the boulder was a slab only compounded her struggles. It required a committing step with full weight on her injured leg. Krampl winced after each attempt and limped around while sussing out the beta. Commentators Langley and Charlie Boscoe debated whether a competitor hindered by such pain should just quit to avoid further injury.
While Krampl did not top the first boulder and looked tentative on the dynamic movement—and the aerial landing—of the second boulder, she persevered. Finally, on a fifth attempt, she secured a top. Shortly after that, to everyone’s surprise, she topped the third boulder too. She was still in great pain and limping even more, but her persistence amid the agony turned her into an unanticipated crowd favorite.
By the time Krampl utilized a figure-four move and topped the fourth boulder to secure a place on the podium, the crowd was frenzied. The cheers—and Krampl’s teary acknowledgment of the adulation—was a magical sports moment that tapped into pathos beyond scorecards and medals (3:29.46 in the livestream)
Team USA Struggles
As with most stops on the 2019 World Cup circuit thus far, American competitors were mostly in the middle of the pack in the scores. In the women’s division, Brooke Raboutou finished tied at 51; Sienna Kopf tied at 45; Ashima Shiraishi tied at 25. Kyra Condie barely missed advancing into the semi-finals and finished tied at 21.
The standout was Alex Johnson, who advanced to the women’s semi-finals (where she secured two zone holds and was in first place for a decent chunk of the round). She finished the competition in tenth place.
Of the four American men who took part in Munich, Dylan Barks tied at 97; Josh Levin tied at 59; Sean Bailey finished tied at 53; and Zach Galla placed highest, tied at 49.
The final stop of the 2019 Bouldering World Cup season will take place in Vail, Colorado (where American Alex Puccio won in the women’s division last year and Sean Bailey placed second in the men’s division) on June 7-8. The competition will present Garnbret with an opportunity to sweep the entire 2019 Bouldering World Cup season. Stay tuned to Climbing.com for the livestreams and coverage.
- Jakob Schubert (AUT)
- Adam Ondra (CZE)
- Jan Hojer (GER)
- Alexey Rubtsov (RUS)
- Anze Peharc (SLO)
- Jongwon Chon (KOR)
- Janja Garnbret (SLO)
- Fanny Gibert (FRA)
- Mia Krampl (SLO)
- Julia Chanourdie (FRA)
- Jenya Kazbekova (UKR)
- Katja Kadic (SLO)