European Boulder&Lead Olympic Qualifier Key Takeaways

Bertone and Roberts win, trouble for Ondra and the resurgence of Rogora and Ginés López

Toby Roberts and Oriane Bertone celebrating their win with gold medals and Olympic tickets
Toby Roberts and Oriane Bertone with their Olympic Tickets © Jan Virt/IFSC

Toby Roberts and Oriane Bertone won their Olympic ticket last weekend in Laval.

But much more happened in Laval.

We saw the resurgence of Alberto Ginés López, who looked like his pre-Olympic self again with strong performances in both Boulder and Lead.

Laura Rogora also returned to form, nearly topping the Lead route and finishing third.

Adam Ondra looked in trouble on all three lead routes in Laval. He finished fourth, just outside the medals, because Sam Averzou scored more points in Boulder than Ondra in Lead.

Here are the main takeaways from the European Olympic Qualifier in Laval.

Bertone’s almost perfect boulder round secures her the Olympic Ticket

Bertone’s win was built on an almost perfect final boulder round, where she scored 99.9 points.

She flashed three out of the four problems. Only the second problem on the slab caused her to pause before she topped it on her second attempt. Going into the Lead round, she had a lead of 15.5 points over Stasa Gejo. Because both Bertone and Gejo are Boulder specialists with similar results in Lead World Cups, Bertone was favoured to win the competition going into the Lead round. On the Lead wall, Gejo would climb hesitantly, never quite getting into the flow, while Bertone would climb confidently.

Bertone commented on the lead climb,

“I was trying to pay attention to the crowd’s reaction whenever I was grabbing a new hold. I was thinking, ‘Is it this one? No.’ ‘Is it the next one? No.’ And when I took the one, I heard everybody go crazy, I turned my head so that I could see the screen and saw my name up there. I don’t even know what to say. I’m crazy happy.”

Bertone would finish 8 points ahead of Gejo in Lead, scoring 72 points over Gejo’s 64.

Bertone’s win was built on her boulder performance, which she sealed with her lead performance. Even if Gejo had matched her in the bouldering round, Bertone would have won the Olympic ticket because of her lead performance.

Toby Roberts came out last to top the Lead route to win his Olympic ticket

Unlike Bertone, Toby Robert’s Lead performance won him his medal. He topped the route after staying in contention from the boulder round.

In the Boulder round, Roberts kept in contact with the rest. He finished second with 69.8 points, only 15 points behind Averzou, who won the round with 84.8. Alberto Ginés López, Mejdi Schlack and Adam Ondra were just behind Roberts, with 1.1 points separating all four athletes.

It would come down to the lead wall.

Averzou struggled on the lead route, scoring only 48.1 points. Roberts needed 64 points to overtake him, the first hold in the top section of the route. Ginés López went earlier and scored 64 points, overtaking Averzou. As Roberts finished 0.1 points ahead of Ginés López in the Boulder round, Roberts only needed to reach the same point on the Lead wall as Ginés López.

He did just that. And much more.

When Roberts was on the final section of the wall, he encouraged the crowd to cheer him. The final move to the top required a Laché swing, a move which was Roberts’ undoing at the World Championship in Bern. This time, he made the move, topping the route.

He did it. Roberts became the first British Male athlete ever to qualify for the Olympics in sport climbing.

After the event, he said,

“I have literally no words now. I don’t think is ever going to sink in. Coming into this event, I tried not to have any expectations and just enjoy climbing. It is such a big dream for me, I’ve been training for it for so long.

“I came so close to it in Bern, but I think I let the pressure get the best of me there, and my weaknesses got exposed. So the aim going away from Bern was to work on my weaknesses, come into this event with a clear head and just enjoy the climbing.”

Resurgent Alberto Ginés López and Laura Rogora win medals

We saw the resurgence of Alberto Ginés López and Laura Rogora at the event.

Both have had difficult seasons this year, with Ginés López only reaching the podium in Koper after a 24th place in Bern and 54th place in Villars — a far cry from being a regular finalist and podium contender we saw in 2019 and 2021.

Ginés López had a solid Boulder round, finishing only 0.1 points behind Roberts in third place, and his 64 points in Lead were enough for him to secure second place.

Ginés López wrote after the event in Laval

“This has been the first time I’ve cried for being second in a comp, for the first time since 5th of August of 2021 I have believed in myself, I’ve found that competitive Alberto that I used to be and I’ve enjoyed the comp as I used to do.”

Ginés López has enough points for the Olympic Qualification Series, so he will get another chance to return to the Olympics next year.

Rogora has also had a difficult season.

Her best performances this year were 6th in Koper and 7th at the World Championships. She missed out on the final in Chamonix, Villars and Innsbruck. The last final she missed in Lead was back in 2019.

On the Lead route, she showed us why she has 2 gold and two silver World Cup medals in Lead, reaching the second-to-last hold and scoring 96.1 points. 24 points more than anyone else. But because Rogora only scored 49.6 points in the Boulder round, she would finish in 3rd place.

She showed everyone she was the best Lead climber at the competition.

She wrote after the event

“There was only one ticket at stake for the whole Europe, I knew it would have been extremely hard to grab it but what I didn’t know before the comp was that it was actually possible and this give me the motivation to keep dreaming for next year!

“After the disastrous round in Bern where I couldn’t manage the fatigue of the combined format I worked a lot on my weaknesses and I am extremely proud of the progression I made in these months.”

Adam Ondra struggles on Lead in Laval

Adam Ondra struggled on the lead routes throughout the competition.

In the qualification round, he was 6th in Lead with 76 points behind Yannick Flohé, Sam Avezou, Martin Bergant, Alberto Ginés López, and Toby Roberts. The semi-final round was better. He finished second behind Roberts, while he was joint third in the final. In each round, Ondra scored more points in bouldering than he did in Lead.

This is not the Ondra of old, who has won three World Championships and 16 gold medals in Lead.

Ondra wrote after the event,

“The result in Laval is not what I was hoping for, this competition season 2023 was not what I was hoping for. Surprisingly consistent results in boulder, and always disappointing performance in lead.”

Ondra only has the Olympic Qualification Series in May and June next year to qualify for the Olympics.

He will need a return to past Lead form to qualify for the Olympics and have a chance of winning a medal ahead of Jakob Schubert and Toby Roberts.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Inside Climbing.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.