The final Boulder World Cup of the 2023 season was held in Innsbruck last week, where Janja Garnbret won her 17th Boulder World Cup gold medal. Four flashes secured her the gold medal ahead of Natalia Grossman in second and Miho Nonaka in third. Natalia’s silver medal is enough to win her second Overall World Cup title ahead of Miho Nonaka in second and Brooke Raboutou in third.
The final lineup was exactly what the fans wanted, with three gold medalists from this season: Brooke Raboutou, Natalia Grossman and Miho Nonaka. They were joined by Janja Garnbret, who is the favourite to win any competition she enters, Ai Mori, who beat Janja in the lead twice at the end of last season, and Futaba Ito, who had reached the final 8 times, yet hasn’t won a medal.
The first boulder featured a Laché move which would be more at home in a Parkour or Ninja Warrior competition. It required the athletes to swing and jump between two large flat ledge holds. Ai Mori was first out and struggled to jump to the first hold off the mats. The route setters tweaked the start to account for the heights of the shorter competitors, Ai and Brooke, who are both shorter than 160cm. Ai eventually got it on her seventh attempt. She successfully managed the laché jump but could not reach the zone, falling short. The other athletes managed to get to the zone, with only Futaba Ito not topping the climb.
The second boulder was a delicate slab, which from the 3D preview, appeared to have been changed to make it easier, which led to some conspiracy theories about the route setters making the round easier for Janja. Ai would flash it, just as she did the semi-final slab. Janja, Miho, and Natalia also flashed it. Brooke would take two goes to the top, while Futaba struggled on the beginning section. She only reached the zone on her final attempt and slid off the finishing hold with 5 seconds remaining.
The first half of the boulder round felt flat, with 3 competitors flashing both boulders. The third boulder was much harder, and the competition came alive. The third boulder was a steep, powerful boulder that started low and required athletes to pounce to a large sloping macro hold. The screw-on-jibs had been removed to make it harder for athletes to stop on it. The main commentator Matt Groom comments that the route setters had told him that no one could paddle through and would have to stop on the sloper. Ai struggled on the move and couldn’t quite get enough height on her jumps to control the swing. Natalia Grossman looked confused by the boulder on the first few attempts. On her seventh and last attempt, she managed to span between the left side pull and the sloper to reach the hold. However, Natalia ran out the time, matching the top hold after the buzzer had gone. She held her head in her hands in disappointment after the Judge delivered their verdict of only a zone.
When Janja Garnbret came out, the audience was excited. Finally, a hard boulder for her. Janja surprised everyone, including herself, as she paddled off the sloper to the zone hold on her first attempt, breaking the intended method. Matt’s co-commentator, Alannah Yip, was speechless. Janja easily dispatches the top section, jumping both hands to hug the final hold. She celebrates, shaking her fist, a smile beaming across her face. Only Miho would get close to the top out of the other competitors. She reached the zone hold on her fifth and final attempt before slipping off as she set up for the final hold.
Going into the final boulder, Janja needed to reach the zone to win. The climb required a pop to a large hold before swinging across and landing on a large volume to reach the zone hold. The final move required throwing a powerful toe hook out right to reach the finish hold. Ai Mori comfortably reached the zone hold on her second attempt, but the final move escaped her. She looked out, stretched out, and struggled to get the toe hook in place. Natalia would eventually get the toe hook in but placed her toe too low for it to help her muscle up to the top hold.
Janja came out and not only flashed the zone but the whole climb, winning the gold medal. She worked the toe hook up the hold using both toes until her right foot was hooking the top of the volume. She then pinched the zone hold and slapped to the finish hold before matching.
Miho Nonaka needed to top to overtake Natalia for the silver medal. Still, she struggled with the toe hook and would have to settle for bronze. Only Futaba Ito would get closer to the final move but did not get high enough to reach the top. She would have to settle for sixth. Brooke would have to settle for a zone and fourth place.
|1||Janja Garnbret||SLO||4T4Z 4 4|
|2||Natalia Grossman||USA||2T4Z 2 11|
|3||Miho Nonaka||JPN||2T4Z 2 13|
|4||Brooke Raboutou||USA||2T3Z 5 11|
|5||Ai Mori||JPN||1T2Z 1 3|
|6||Futaba Ito||JPN||0T3Z 0 12|
Natalia’s second place in Innsbruck means she would win her third Overall Boulder World Cup title ahead of Miho Nonaka and Brooke Raboutou. Oriane Bertone would come forth, and Hannah Meul fifth. Janja’s gold and silver medals would only be enough for 8th overall.
Janja Garnbret has flashed all the finals boulder 4 times1, putting her ahead of Anna Stöhr and Akiyo Noguchi. In her post-competition interview, she thanked her team, “Grateful for my team, because they were always with me in the past few months, a lot of tears, a lot of crying, a lot of tough moments, doubts, negative thoughts, they were always there. So I’m really grateful for them.”
Though she flashed every boulder, she enjoyed the round, “With a stronger field there is more fun, and more challenges. Sometimes the boulders in finals are a bit too easy, but I think that tonight we had the perfect round.” Despite a stronger field this year, Janja still reigns supreme.
Janja has flashed all 4 boulders in finals 3 times (Munich 2018, Moscow 2019, Innsbruck 2023), and all 3 boulders in Innsbruck 2021 when the last final boulder was cancelled due to rain. ↩