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Oriane Bertone celebrates her first gold medal alongside bronze medalists Flavy Cohaut and Mejdi Schlack and the French team.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

Gold For Bertone and Lee in Prague

Recap of the IFSC Boulder World Cup in Prague.

Oriane Bertone came out first to the second boulder of the final on the slab. A quick send of the first boulder in two tries had put her into the top three. The slab had an awkward run and start to get stood up on two large yellow volumes, the second of which had to be pushed out from the wall as it was too slopey. After getting stood, she moves confidently across to the zone, weighting her feet carefully. Once she is at the zone, she re-adjusts her feet and weights her right foot on final red slopey foot hold. She pounces up to the final hold, a large red dual-tex macro upside down. She comfortably holds it, flashing the boulder.

As she waits backstage, no one else could finish the boulder except her teammate Flavy Cohaut in her first finals. Even the Queen, Janja Garnbret, could not hold the final hold. This was the moment in which Oriane won the competition.

For Dohyun Lee, the moment came much later in the competition. He was the last climber out on Mens 4 and every other athlete had flashed the boulder. He needed to top the boulder in less than 8 attempts to win over the home favourite Adam Ondra. After pulling on, he initially looks to the high risk palm and toe catch method before returning to using a high left heel which many of the other athletes had used. He manages to reach the zone hold on his first attempt. A further dyno to the final hold and he flashes the boulder to win his first gold medal.

The competition in Prague had a large field with 104 male athletes and 84 female. A season high. Despite this, we were missing a number of experienced competitors on the women side including Natalia Grossman, Brooke Raboutou, Hannah Meul, and Fanny Gilbert. Prague did herald the return of of Janja Garnbret, the Queen of competition climbing, after she broke her right toe and required foot surgery. We also saw the return of home town favourite Adam Ondra, back from trying the hardest outdoor route in Norway, and competing for the first time since the European Championship in Munich in August 2022.

The qualification rounds were hard, with many stand out athletes missing out including Gregor Vezonik, Sean Bailey, Alex Megos, Jakob Schubert, Paul Jenft and Manuel Cornu. On the women’s side, former bronze medalist Zhilu Lu narrowly missed out in 21st along side former World Champion Petra Klinger. Others who missed out included Jenya Kazbekova, Chloe Caulier, and Laura Rogora.

The semi-finals went right to left for the Men, a point the co-comentator and routesetter Cody Grodzki made clear was the intention of the route setters while the organisers wanted to go from left to right. Going from right to left means the athletes started on the steepest part of the wall and would finish on the slab. The first problem required a hard powerful co-ordination move, which only 8 athletes could complete to reach the zone hold. Of these, only 4 managed to reach the top afterwards. The second and third problems were the most manageable, the second being a fairly basic boulder while the third featured a dynamic start and a strong finish as the vertical hand holds made for bad footholds. The fourth slab boulder would prove to be as tricky as the first problem, with only 4 male athletes topping the boulder. For Adam Ondra, the slab proved to be very important with a top in 2 attempts securing him a place in the final. Dohyun Lee looked dominant alongside a resurgent Yoshiyuki Ogata, each dominating the powerful first 3 boulders. Mejdi Schalck looked not his usual self, but a quick top on the first and last boulder secured him a spot in the final. Jan-Luca Posch and Yannick Flohé also made finals, both enjoying the power boulders on the steep wall.

Janja Garnbret topping out the powerful W4 in the semi-finals.
Janja Garnbret topping out W4 in the Semi-Final © Jan Virt/IFSC

For the women, we went left to right starting on a tricky slab that would only see 7 tops. The whole round was fairly hard with only 26 tops across all 20 competitors. Athletes had he most success on boulder 3. It featured a jump from a awkward start out to a deep juggy pocket and finished with powerful moves on small crimps and large slopey rails. The final boulder was the hardest, with only 5 female athletes reaching the zone and only Janja Garnbret and Futaba topping the boulder. Janja and Futaba would finish first and second on the round. Oriane Bertone would sneak into finals in 6th place with her teammate Flavy Cohault making her first boulder world cup final in third after topping the first 3 boulders quickly. Stasa Gejo and Miho Nonaka rounded out he final competitors with tops in the first 3 boulders.

Seeing Adam Ondra back in a Boulder World Cup final just feels right. Over 14 years, despite a sporadic attendance, he always delivers when he puts his mind to it, and this final was no different. The final started with a tricky jump which has Mejdi written all over it. Mejdi flashed it. Adam persisted, getting the zone and top on his 6th attempt. The boulder was not overly difficult with 5 athletes topping it, but athletes burned attempts.

Dohyuni Lee of South Korea competes in the men's Boulder final during the 2023 IFSC World Cup in Prague, (CZE).
Doyhun Lee on M2 Final Boulder © Jan Virt/IFSC

The second boulder also featured a dynamic start, but was a touch easier with 4 flashes. Adam kept going despite the boulder not being his preferred style; he topped it out on his 3rd attempt. Adam looked so happy with the top.

The third problem on the slab would be where the top two would be decided. The slab proved tricky for Yannick Flohé who had trouble getting established on the bolder which tested an athletes flexibility. He ended his attempt with a detailed brushing of the boulder for the next competitor. Adam made quick work of the lower section of the boulder, but it took him until his 3rd attempt to secure the top hold. For Yoshiyuki and Mejdi, the final move proved illusive. Dohyun Lee came out last to put on a showcase in slab climbing with a flash.

The last boulder of the final was an anti-climax. The last boulder was set on the steepest end of the wall and at first glance, appeared to require a futuristic jump into a press-toe catch to reach the zone hold. However, despite the route setters attempts to block the start hold, the athletes found a way to place their left heel on the start hold and launch themselves to the zone hold with ease. The final jump to the top also proved straightforward for the athletes. Every athlete flashed the boulder.

Dohyun Lee would take gold with 4 tops in 5 attempts, a stunning performance to take his first gold after winning a silver medal last year in Innsbruck. Adam Ondra was overjoyed to win with silver on his return to competition. It was great to see the passion he has for competiting. Mejdi could not match his performance on the first two competitions and came a way with a bronze medal.

Men's Podium: Doyhun Lee wins gold, Adam Ondra wins silver and Mejdi Schlack wins bronze.
Men's Podium © Jan Virt/IFSC

The women’s final looked like it was Janja Garnbret’s to loose. 5 tops in Qualification and 4 in Semi-finals, she looked like she had never left. On the first boulder she, she continued her form, flashing it along side Miho Nonaka despite the dynamic start which left Stasa Gejo, Futaba Ito and Flavy Cohaut perplexed. Oriane Bertone would do it on her second attempt.

The second boulder was different. A tricky slab on large slopey volumes which required athletes to stand on their feet and trust them. Janja was not playing that game. She stood close to the wall and pulled herself up the climb by shear physical and mental strength. Only on the last dyno to the finish did her reluctance to stand on her right foot, the foot whose toe she broke earlier this year, show. Despite 3 attempts, she kept slipping and could not reach the final hold. This was in sharp contrast to the exquisite slab climbing skills shown earlier by both French athletes, with Oriane flashing the boulder and Flavy topping it on her 3 attempt.

The third boulder would also prove to be decisive. Oriane flashed the triple paddle dyno by jumping with two hands to the next hold and again to the zone hold - a method no other athlete tried. From there she casually topped out the boulder. Flavy somehow managed to hold the the zone hold with her left hand out stretched on her third attempt and capitalised to put herself into third place. Janja would be the only athlete to complete the triple paddle, ending in a reverse dunk of the zone hold with her right hand, but it took her 4 attempts. She also topped out to put presure Oriane on the final boulder.

Oriane Bertone topping out woman's final boulder 3.
Oriane Bertone's Flash of W3 © Jan Virt/IFSC

Because of the number of attempts on boulder 3 and as Janja didn’t top the slab, Oriane Bertone only needed to reach the zone to win the competition. The final boulder was a hard power climbing, a climb that looked tailor-made for Janja. It features a campus section in the middle which involved a ‘Tom Cruise move’ from Mission Impossible 2 where the athlete faced out to the crowd. For Oriane, she flashes the zone after sticking the dynamic first move, but couldn’t make it much further. Back on the mat, the emotions were clear to see. She knew she had won and tears of joy were running down her face. She took a moment to compose herself before continuing on the boulder, trying to find anyway to work around the campus section going foot first and trying anything she could. When her time was up, she ran to celebrate with her coaches. Miho Nonaka would make headway on her first attempt, touching the top hold but being able to hold it. The physicality of the boulder showed, with each climber’s first attempt being their best. When Janja came out, we were in for a treat. She casually did the dynamic first move, then climbing footless through the hard section middle section before navigating the trick top to flash the boulder. A climb worth of winning the competition, but unfortunately she would have to settle for silver. Flavy Cohaut’s performances on boulder 2 and 3 would earn her a bronze medal in her first Boulder final.

Oriane’s win would put her in to first place in the overall Boulder ranking thanks to her second in Salt Lake City and Seoul ahead of Brooke Raboutou. Miho Nonaka retains her third place overall with a 4th place in Prague to move ahead of Natalia Grossman. With Brooke not participating in Brixen, this leave the season open for Oriane. If Oriane can do well in Brixen, then she has a good chance to clinch the overall title at the final competition in Innsbruck.

For the men, Mejdi Schalck extended his lead in the overall while Dohyun Lee’s win moves him up into third place after a 4th in Seoul and a 7th in Hachioji. Tomoa Narasaki retained his 2nd place despite finishing down in 10th in Prague on the back of his performances in Seoul, Hachioji and Salt Lake City.

The last time a French woman won a boulder world cup was Julliette Danion in Brno in 2007. 16 years later, we have another French World Cup winner. Oriane has 7 silver Boulder world cup medals to her name. All this must make her gold so much more special. Along side Mejdi and Flavy’s bronze medals, the week was a victory for the French. Vive La France!