Bertone and Lee take Gold at Prague Boulder WC
- Wednesday 7th June 2023
Oriane Bertone (FRA) and Dohyun Lee (KOR) took the gold medals at the Prague Boulder World Cup over the weekend.
The fourth Boulder World Cup of the 2023 in Prague was always going to be a big event; not only was it the first ever WC that had been hosted in the city but both Adam Ondra and Janja Garnbret had chosen the competition to stage their long-awaited returned to the WC stage. There was perhaps something of a feeling that the two giants might have been a little off the pace given how frenetic the events and climbing at the previous World Cups had been this year. In reality, Garnbret had been absent for the first three events of 2023 thanks to a broken toe on her left foot. Whilst Ondra’s absence wasn’t injury related; seemingly his absence was more about re-setting his mind and body after his disappoints in Tokyo. Another big hitter, Alex Megos, was also on the start line for the first time in a whilst too. Doubtless, the forthcoming World Championships scheduled for the beginning of August, and hence the start of the qualification events for the Paris Olympics, was on everyone’s minds.
The strength and shear climbing ability of so many competitors these days that making it through to the semi-finals is a worthy achievement in itself. Demonstrating that point perfectly, and failing to make the cut for the semi’s were the likes of Sean Bailey, Alex Megos, Alberto Gines Lopex and Jakob Schubert. Two Team GB climbers did however make the cut and climbed in the semi’s; Toby Roberts and Max Milne qualified in 5th and 15th but fell short of the finals finishing in 15th and 19th respectively. Also missing the finals were Tomoa Narasaki and Jongwond Chong; arguably their prodigies – Yoshiyuki Ogata and Dohyun Lee – did however. The harder setting in the qualification had continued into the semi’s and only Lee and Ogata finished with 3 tops each. Ondra, after somewhat nervous and shaky performances in the qualification and semi-final’s, made the finals in fifth place.
The men’s final was, by comparison to the quail’s and the semi’s, a higher scoring round. Frenchman, Mejdi Schalck – in manyways, the new boulder champion in waiting – came out of the blocks very fast flashing the first two problems in typically convincing style to lead at the halfway point. Dohyun Lee was just behind Schalck having taken just two attempts to top M1. However, when the young Frenchman failed to top M3 and Lee flashed it the standings were reversed. M3 proved pivotal for Ondra too as he was the only other finalist to get a top. M4 became a flash-fest with everyone flashing it so once the dust had settled it was the young South Korean Dohyun Lee who had taken his first ever win forcing the crowd’s favourite, Adam Ondra down into second. Given it was Ondra’s first WC event in nearly 12 months that was an excellent result however. Mejdi Schalck collected a Bronze to go with the two golds he’s already won this year.
With four WC Boulder events down already in 2023, Schalck leads the men’s rankings. That said, Schalck isn’t scheduled to compete in any more Boulder event of the year whereas Tomoa Naraski who is currently in second place in the 2023 Boulder rankings behind Schalck is down to do both Brixen and Innsbruk.
Like Ondra, Janja Garnbret’s return to the WC mats had been highly anticipated and she didn’t certainly didn’t disappoint. Despite what might be a lack of ‘match-fitness’ Garnbret finished joint top with five tops after the qualification round and went on to top the rankings after the semi’s in which she was the only competitor to top all four semi-final blocs. Four other athletes – Futabia Ito (JPN), Flavy Cohaut (FRA), Miho Nonaka (JPN) and Stasa Gejo (SRB) – all finished the semi’s with three tops each so in reality very close behind Garnbret. Oriane Bertone (FRA) completed the finalists. Incidentally, whilst neither Natalie Grossman nor Brooke Raboutou were in the starting line-up that opened up the opportunities for other athletes to step forward which is exactly what Australian climber Oceania Mackenzie did; although she placed 7th and whilst just missing out on the finals she’ll take a lot of satisfaction in her highest ever placed finish in a WC Boulder.
Despite qualifying last for the finals French star Oriane Bertone kept her game very much together for the finals. Garnbret and Nonaka both opened well flashing W1; Bertone topped on her second attempt. Both French women, Bertone and Cohaut, topped W2 a slick-looking slab – super impressively Bertone even managed what looked like an effortless flash! In contrast, none of the other finalist – Garnbret included – topped W2 so by halfway Bertone was in the lead. Having finished several times just off the top spot, Bertone inched towards her first gold by maintaining form and flashing W3. Cohaut and Garnbret were also able to get the top on W3 albeit in more attempts. All Bertone had to do on W4 was to flash to the zone and the gold was hers; the look of elation on her face when she did just that was one of jubilation. As it was, Garnbret alone was able to top W4 - a hard looking 360deg campus move - stopping everyone in their tracks.
Bertone – having collected five silver medals in her WC bouldering career (two in 2021, one in 2022 and two earlier this year in 2023) finally secured her first gold. Perhaps surprisingly – especially given her form in the qualification and semi-final rounds - Garnbret was pushed down into second. Finally, Bertone’s fellow French Team member Cohaut, got her first WC medal, a bronze.
Four boulder events down in the season Bertone – like Mejdi Schalck in the men’s rankings – now has a sizeable lead in the 2023 ranking; however, Bertone isn’tdue to start either of the final two Boulder WC of the season. Having not competed in Prague, both Brooke Raboutou and Natalie Grossman are down for both Brixen and Innsbruk so the final rankings for 2023 are certainly up in the air.
Watch condensed videos of both the Men’s and Women’s final’s below