Schubert, Duffy and Narasaki secure Olympic qualification
- Monday 14th August 2023
In a nail-biting, closely contested Combined Final, Jakob Schubert, Colin Duffy and Tomoa Narasaki took podium finishes in the World Championships in Bern securing the first of the men’s Olympic qualifications.
Wrapping up what was an amazing 12 days of climbing featuring the best climbers in the world, the Men’s Combined (B&L) Final closed the World Championships in Bern on Saturday. As with the Day 11 Women’s Combined (B&L) Final, the Men’s final started off with a four bloc Boulder round followed by the Lead route. Unlike the Women’s Boulder round, the Men’s was a frenetic high scoring round with multiple tops; remarkably, almost the entire eight-man finalists all finished the round with 70 points or more; the top two climbers in a neck-and-neck finish on 98.7 and 98.6pts!
M1’s got the Men’s Boulder round off to a punishing start; a combination start led to a paddle jump from which a super powerful finish was needed. Most of the finalists managed the paddle jump to collect the high zone and hence the 10 points but only Jakob Schubert and Tomoa Narasaki were able to hold it together to get the match on the finishing hold. Quite literally, most of the field had the final hold worth 25 points in their hand but couldn’t get their feet up and so in a stable position to get the final match. Sadly for Toby Roberts he wasn’t able to land the paddle so started off the round with something of a deficit.
The second bloc, M2, was a techie bloc on a vertical wall; a foot-intensive first section led to a tricky out-of-balance last move. All the finalists managed a top of M2; Tomoa Narasaki, Soratu Anraku, Dohyun Lee and Paul Jenft managed a flash whilst Jakob Schubert, Colin Duffy and Adam Ondra finished it off on their second attempt. Despite the increasing pressure and yet more ‘must-get’ points going begging, Toby Roberts – much to the relief of all those following and rooting for him – swopped out his hitherto conservative balance approach for a do-or-die dynamic approach to secure a last-second, much-needed top.
At the halfway point, Schubert and Narasaki were out in front with the rest of the field chasing hard. Although in 8th place Robert’s last-minute top on M2 helped boost his points tally considerably keeping his Olympic dream alive.
Said to be the easiest bloc of the round, M3 tackled the steepest section of the wall via a series of burly moves to a mid-height (blocked) undercut before a poor sloper guarded the final moves up to a dished finish. M3 saw all kinds of beta-breaking sequences including the classic ‘figure-of-four’ from Dohyun Lee. With the exception of Dohyun Lee and Paul Jenft, all the finalists managed to flash M3; Toby Robert’s relief to be back in the zone looks palpable when he jumped off in celebration.
Finally, M4 was a high-octane, coordination problem that all the finalists topped. Tomoa Narasaki, Sorato Anraku, Dohyun Lee all managed to flash M4, Jakob Schubert, Colin Duffy and Paul Jenft got it on their second attempt, Toby Roberts topped on his third attempt leaving Adam Ondra the only climber to take five attempts before matching the finishing holds.
Boulder specialist Tomoa Narasaki finished in the top spot when all the scores were added together on a near-perfect 99.7pt score. Having had by his own admission a pretty poor boulder round previously Jakob Schubert had really turned his boulder game around to finish in second just 0.1pt behind Tomoa Narasaki on 99.6pts. Sorato Anraku, Colin Duffy and Adam Ondra finished in 3rd, 4th and 5th place respectively all tightly clustered together on 85.0, 84.7 and 84.1 points respectively. After a shaky start, Toby Roberts showed considerable maturity and keep his focus in the second half of the round to finish in 6th place but very much in contention with 79.3pts. Dohyun Lee and Paul Jenft finished in 7th and 8th place on 70.0 and 69.8 points respectively. The obvious consequence of the high-scoring Boulder round was that Lead specialists like Sorato Anraku, Colin Duffy, Adam Ondra and Toby Roberts were all very much still in with a chance of a podium finish. That said, Jakob Schubert who had won the Lead World Championship just days earlier, was clearly in an absolute perfect position.
Climbing in reverse order of the qualification Paul Jenft got the Men’s Lead round underway; he fell quite low down after a shaky performance. Dohyun Lee was next out and he established a high point falling off (with 57.1pts) on the first real testing move a little over half-height when he kept a high right heel on trying to latch a high crimp rather than campus the move as intended by the setters. Remarkably, and very much to the crowd's surprise and his annoyance, Adam Ondra made exactly the same mistake when climbing next.
Next out was Jakob Schubert. Rarely does Schubert make mistakes on a Lead route and this was a classic performance in which he climbed high onto the headwall before falling on 84pts having established a new high point. Overall Schubert had a combined score of 183.6pts substantially more than Ondra who was down at 141.2pts. It was starting to look as though Schubert had done enough to medal and take an Olympic qualification place; it all depended on Tomao Narasaki who was out next. Being a super strong boulderer, typically Narasaki sprints up the Lead wall climbing on pure power. His performance at Bern was classic Narasaki and, sticking with his usual high-risk and dynamic lead style, he finally peeled off just prior to the campus move having run out of gas. His overall score was 156.7pts. Only Colin Duffy and Sorato Anraku could now beat Schubert and both would require a top on the Lead wall to do so. To say the tension was mounting was an understatement!
Colin Duffy was the next climber out. Whereas other climbers seemed to have peaked earlier in the week-long competition, Duffy’s performances were improving as the rounds went by. Duffy, inevitably feeling the pressure, started out less than super smooth. However, he started to settle as he got higher then, getting through the crucial campus section, he fell soon after on 76pts and 160.7pts overall; second behind Schubert.
Toby Roberts was out next. He’d set the arena alight during the Lead Championship with a super impressive flash so the crowd were well aware that a top on the Lead wall was a very real possibility depending on the route. Unfortunately, however, Toby made a route reading error whilst executing the downclimb section and although he recovered it must have both unsettled and tired him. Toby made it through the campus move that both Lee and Ondra had fallen off and although he got established on the headwall he fell soon after ending his run with 64.1pts and 143.4pts overall. Roberts had beaten Ondra but was behind Schubert, Duffy and Narasaki so was off the podium looking at a possible 4th place finish depending on what the last climber, Sorato Anraku, did. Like Roberts, Anraku was fully capable of topping a Lead route but he too fell lower than expected; bizarrely in exactly the same position as Roberts just having pulled onto the headwall. When Anraku’s Lead score of 64.1pts was added to his Boulder score he finished on 149.1pts nearly six points higher than Toby.
Once again Schubert had managed to come out on top to take the Gold medal. Duffy finished in 2nd and took Silver whilst Narasaki had held on and taken 3rd and Bronze. Ironically, the first three Olympic qualification invites went to climbers who had previously contested the Tokyo Games. In this instance proving that experience can and does count albeit when it’s combined with the prerequisite skills.
The young guns of Sorato Anraku and Toby Roberts finished in 4th and 5th place respectively; although they both have so much more to give competition climbing and both are now extremely well placed to continue with their quest for Olympic qualification both will have to defer that to the subsequent qualification opportunities as will Adam Ondra, Dohyun Lee and Paul Jenft who finished in 6th, 7th and 8th place respectively.
Speaking after his win Schubert said, “I don’t know. It’s so crazy. It kind of feels like the Lead, it all went so fast. Today was a big day, obviously, I knew I had to do really well in Boulder to have a chance for that Olympic ticket and the Boulder round couldn’t have gone any better for me I think. My dream was to go into the Lead with a lead and then keep my nerves under control, and I think I did a really good job of doing that in the Lead route.
“I don’t think I actually realise what it means yet. Feels like there hasn’t been much time to think about it. I was watching the action and really hoping Sorato [Anraku] could show what he could do because he is such a good climber. I feel like he is the best-combined climber right now, I had my day today, but we are definitely going to see him at the Olympics. For an older climber like me, now I can just focus and prepare for the Olympics, calm down a bit and now not do all the comps next year because I’m getting tired doing a lot of comps. So this has worked out perfectly.”
Watch the highlights of the Men’s Combined Final below…