FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
At their home World Cup, some of the world’s leading ice climbers embraced the opportunity to end the season quite literally on a high.
A superb 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour, partnered by The North Face Korea, which witnessed five contrasting and enthralling World Cup events on two continents and five countries, concluded in Kirov, Russia from 2-4 March.
In front of another vast audience through the UIAA’s YouTube , Facebook and Twitter channels and through livestreaming partners the Olympic Channel and EXTREME, another feast of relentless ice climbing was provided.
Women’s Lead. Tolokonina takes gold, Shin the season
Maria Tolokonina (main photo) is a brilliant and versatile ice climber. Four-time World Tour winner in lead, five-time in speed and reigning World Champion in speed, she had a point to prove in Kirov. Following two bronze and as many silver medals, she was chasing a first elusive gold of the season. With her lead form vastly superior to her performance in this year’s speed competition, this was her opportunity. Slick performances in the qualification and semi-finals, where she was the best performing athlete, built momentum going into the final climb. The pressure was on. South Korean’s Woonseon Shin (slipping with seconds to spare at clip 12) and Hannarai Song (falling at clip 11) both registered impressive climbs. On her home wall, Tolokinina produced a measured and controlled performance coming close to the topping the route and taking that long-awaited gold medal. For the fifth straight competition, Ekaterina Vlasova finished in fourth place. Holland’s Marianne van der Steen, eighth place, performed impressively in reaching the Finals for the first time this season.
Silver medal in Kirov ensured lead 2017 World Champion Woonseon Shin (440 points) won the World Tour competition. Shin was the highest scoring athlete across all competitions. Tolokonina took second place (390) and Song third (330).
Replay: Lead Finals from Kirov
Men’s Lead. Kuzovlev takes glory, Tomilov the World Tour
Maxim Tomilov had taken three silver medals in four World Cups and like Tolokonina was a multi-World Tour winner on the hunt for a first gold of the season. Fate seemed to be in Tomilov’s favour when World Tour leader Alexey Dengin failed to make it through to the Finals and when with just one athlete still to climb he became the first climber to top the route in Kirov. That was until Nikolai Kuzovlev, a less measured but speedier climber by nature, stole victory with the very last climb of the men’s lead competition. A surprise bronze medal was claimed by Lee YoungGeon, considered by many to be the natural heir to the great HeeYong Park. Kuzovlev adds a lead gold to his two first places in speed. Among the finalists was Canadian youngster Noah Beek who finished in seventh.
Tomilov’s disappointment at not claiming gold was tempered by claiming the World Tour crown, owning to his superb consistency across the season. Tomilov’s 371 point saw him edge out Alexey Dengin (344). Dengin, winner of three gold medals in five competitions, paid for disappointing performances in Rabenstein and Kirov. Mohammadreza Safdarian, the first Iranian athlete to claim both a World Cup medal and a World Cup gold during the 2018 season, finished the season in third (318).
All results are available here.
Photos from Kirov can be downloaded here.
A review of the speed competition will be published later today.
A retrospective of the 2018 UIAA Ice Climbing season will be available in mid March with details available regarding the UIAA’s road map for the seasons to come.
All images: UIAA/lena Tem
Report: UIAA/Peter Bourne