Japan team dominate Seoul World Cup semi-finals

Despite entering the court early, Canadian Oscar Baudrand kicked off the second semi-final of the Boulder World Cup in 2022. After netting the opening problem, the teenager went up in arrow at the top of the men’s pack with two Tops and three Zones. The scene was set. Would he be able to stand up to the best climbers in the world? (Result report below)

Victor Baudrand

After placing 19th in the qualifying round, Buadrand became only the second climber to step on the mats in the Men’s category. It endured nearly two hours of tension as Team Japan began to chip away at their semi-final standings.

In the end, Baudrand finished his competition in ninth place, just three places from the finals. This result marks an improvement over last month’s result of 35 places and shows that Baudrand is one of the most promising combined athletes on the Canadian team. He even edged out Canadian Olympian Sean McColl, a man who won Team Canada’s high performance bouldering competition ahead of the World Cup season. McColl also had strong competition, but couldn’t muster enough boulder problems to advance to the final.

Baudrand would have continued to the final if he had managed to secure the Top in M1 or the Zone in M4 with one less Top attempt in M2 or M3. While this hypothetical conversation could be made to support many athletes, it should be noted that the young Canadian climber was just outside the finals. That speaks well for Team Canada, especially since the season has only just begun.

With Canada’s performance sorted, it becomes easier to appreciate the results of the semi-final competition.

Women’s semi-final

Among the ladies, Garnbret’s absence was felt by both the public and the competitors. On the one hand, it was exciting to know that another athlete will win gold. However, Garnbret’s impeccable record has been a hugely entertaining part of the 2021 World Cup Series and the 2022 Meiringen World Cup.

Natalia Grossman by Dimitris Tosidis

Also, his absence seems to influence the difficulty of women’s blocks from what we saw in Meiringen. This correlation may not have a causal link, but the semi-final in Meiringen averaged fewer tops than the one in Seoul. In this semifinal, world champion Natalia Grossman and world championship silver medalist Camilla Moroni each reached four peaks and were separated by attempts.

To his credit, Moroni won his four Tops with a committed ascent of W4. With seconds to go, the Italian crimped the thin plastic edges that protected the Top and secured her qualification for second place.

Although the boulders seemed easier than in Meiringen, they still required an almost unbelievable number of attempts. Even Grossman needed 10 attempts to overcome the 4 block problems.

The coherence of the female field seems to be increasing. Most would have bet on the other four competitors heading to the final. Only surprise, Mia Aoyagi, a Japanese competitor who made a name for herself in Seoul. American Brooke Raboutou, French Oriane Bertone and Serbian Stasa Gejo all found themselves in another final, cementing their dominance on the court.

That said, a few athletes showed that the depth of the women’s field was increasing as well. After a disappointing finish at Meiringen, Miho Nonaka improved over 30 places to speak eighth in this weekend’s competition. Additionally, Americans Cloe Coscoy and Kylie Cullen each climbed well for the second straight World Cup. They finished 10 and 11 respectively and further represented the growing strength of the women’s category in the United States and around the world.

To this end, Raboutou climbed an exemplary semi-final by moving from 16th to 4th place in tonight’s competition. It looks like Raboutou could make a breakthrough, but there are questions about the level of fatigue this athlete has been through. Among the Olympians in the final, only Raboutou remains competitive on the World Cup circuit. All the others have given up, missed the finals or abstained from this last World Cup.

Men’s semi-final

On the men’s side, the Japanese team dominated. Five of the six competitors who reached the finals represented Team Japan, continuing the Meiringen World Cup streak where the team’s Tomoa Narasaki and Yoshiyuki Ogata won the gold and silver medals.

Only the French Paul Jenft opposes the Japanese team. After such a mixed season last year, it’s amazing to see Japan perform at such a high level. With Ondra and others splitting the nationalities found in last year’s World Cup final, Japan lost control of the podium. Today it looked like they were establishing themselves as the best bouldering team in the world.

That said, Colin Duffy’s absence from the Seoul World Cup has given Japan at least one of those final spots. Still, it will be interesting to see if Japan holds that 2019-like level of skill in future competitions.

In addition, Tomoa Narasaki appears in good form this year. He will enter the final in first position after an incredible ascent of a long and physical M4. Although he lacked some of the consistency he might have wanted in last year’s series, he comes back to himself with his dominating performance.

There is a feeling after the World Championships in Moscow that Fujii Kokoro is the strongest block on the World Cup circuit, however, Narasaki’s technique remains dominant at the moment.

Narasaki’s brother, Meichi Narasaki, also qualified for the finals in third position following a precise performance. His results are impressive, as is Keita Dohi. Dohi is a lesser-known, but equally strong presence in the Japanese Boulder team, and one to watch in the finals

The finals will begin at 4 a.m. ET.

Women qualify for finals

1 – Natalia Grossman (USA)

2 – Camilla Moroni (ITA)

3 – Mia Aoyagi (JPN)

4 – Brooke Raboutou (USA)

5 – Oriane Bertone (FRA)

6 – Stasa Gejo (SRB)

Men qualify for the finals

1 – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)

2 – Kokoro Fujii (JPN)

3 – Meichi Narasaki (JPN)

4 – Paul Jenft (FRA)

5 – Keita Dohi (JPN)

6 – Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN)

Featured image of Kokoro Fujii by Dimitris Tosidis