JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Sorato Anraku and Yuetong Zhang won their Olympic tickets at the Boulder&Lead Asian Qualifier.
The weather was hot and humid in Jakarta, which compounded the stress of the Qualifier, where only the winner wins an Olympic ticket. While Sorato Anraku dominated the Men’s event, the Women’s event was close. Yuetong Zhang won by only 1.4 points ahead of Miho Nonaka and 6.5 from Futaba Ito. We also saw the resurgence of Yufei Pan. Struggles for Korea and two Indonesian athletes delight the home crowd competing in their first combined final.
Read more below to learn more about the key takeaways from the Asian Qualifier.
Welcome to the Sorato Anraku Show
What can be said about Sorato Anraku that hasn’t been said?
In Jakarta, he was dominant throughout the competition, finishing first in each round. In the final, he flashed 3 of the final problems. Only the fourth would pose him any problems, though he topped the boulder on his 4th attempt.
He was even more dominant in Lead, being the only athlete to top the final route. He was the best in Lead across the competition, topping the Lead route in every round.
Sorato averaged 186.4 points across the competition. Janja Garnbret only averaged 176 points per round in Bern.
After the competition, he says
“I’m so happy to get the Olympic ticket. I was quite calm on the Boulders and I performed well. I didn’t know the scores in Lead and I don’t want to know them, I just focus on myself and getting to the top. Now I want a gold medal in Paris.”
Yuetong Zhang Surprises Even herself to win her Olympic Ticket
Yuetong Zhang surprised everyone, including herself, with her win.
She kept in contention in the hard boulder round with a top of Boulder 1. Yuetong also achieved all three 3 high zones, keeping her within 11 points of Miho Nonaka going into the Lead round.
Yuetong Zhang is a stronger lead climber than a boulder, so we expected her to do better. She won a silver medal in 2019 at the Chamonix Lead World Cup and finished 4th in Wujiang in September. Despite a wrist injury from the Boulder round, Yuetong climbed high on the route. She passed Jain Kim’s high point and 3 holds from the top before falling. This performance moved her into first place.
And she stayed there.
Miho Nonaka fell 3 holds below her, 1 hold away from overtaking Yuetong, and Futaba Ito would fall two holds below. Chaehyun Seo would fall in the same place as Jain Kim, 2 holds below Yuetong.
After the competition, Yuetong said
“Before this competition I didn’t think I could make it. I don’t know what to say, it’s all a bit too fast, but right now it is exciting and surprising. It is a dream come true. I thought maybe the best I could do here was a podium and the gold was impossible because there are many strong girls. The Japanese and Korean girls, and China has another strong girl in the final, so I’m really surprised.”
Nonaka and Ito Just Miss Out
For Miho Nonaka and Futaba Ito, the competition was punishing.
Miho Nonaka, the 2020 Olympic silver medalist, was the favourite for the ticket coming into the event. She struggled in the heat and the humidity after a long season. Miho was only one hold on the Lead route or a high zone away from winning the competition. She was 1.4 points behind Yuetong Shang.
Miho wrote after the event, “It probably was the toughest competition I’ve ever done in my career. Three days of competition with the combined format, dealing with the high temperatures and humidity, sore body, and thin fingers skin.”
The pressure took its toll on Futaba Ito as well.
Futaba dominated the qualification and semi-final rounds, winning both rounds. She scored 172.4 points in qualification and 187.8 in the semi-final. But the pressure got to her in the final.
Futaba wrote after the event, “At this event, I realized once again how difficult it is to perform at my best under pressure and the desire to win.
It was also difficult to be in a situation where my friends and I became rivals and only one of us was chosen to represent us.”
Miho and Futaba will fight for the final Japanese spot next year at the Olympic Qualifier Series.
Yufei Pan delights on Lead to seal Silver Medal
Yufei Pan (CHN), a 2020 Olympian, walked away with a silver medal from the competition.
Even though he didn’t get the Olympic ticket, this will boost his confidence after a tough couple of seasons with one final. Yufei was the only athlete other than Sorato Anraku to top the second Boulder. He almost topped the lead route, scoring 96.1 points, almost double the points of the next nearest athlete.
Though he did not win the Olympic ticket, he will be in the running for one of the 10 places on offer through the OQS.
Koreans struggle outside of their speciality
For the Koreans, Chaeyhun Seo, Jain Kim and Dohyun Lee, this event did not go the way they would have dreamed.
Chaehyun Seo’ improved in Boulder this season, winning her first medal. She was one of the best lead climbers in their competition, making her one of the favourites. Jain Kim won her 30th Lead medal on her return from retirement. Dohyun Lee got his first gold medal in bouldering and came second in the overall World Cup.
There was much to be hopeful for if you were Korean.
But they are all specialists: Jain and Chaehyun in Lead and Dohyun in Boulder. If the other discipline is hard, they are unlikely to make up for the scores in their main discipline.
Jain Kim and Chaehyun Seo did well in the Lead stage of the final, finishing joint second with 80 points. But both needed more points to make up for low scoring Boulder performances. Chaehyun only topped one boulder, while Jain only scored on the zones.
Dohyun did well in the Boulder round, finishing second to Sorato with 3 tops and all zones. He struggled in the Lead round, scoring only 48 points, compared to Sorato’s top and Yufei Pan’s 96.1.
All will have another chance at the OQS series next, where they can all still qualify.
Indonesian’s Delight the Home Crowd in the Finals
Two Indonesian climbers reached the combined finals: Raviandi Ramadhan and Sukma Lintang Cahyani.
While Raviandi reached the final of the Jakarta World Cup in 2022, he has struggled this season. His highest place was 28 in Wujiang.
For Sukma, it was a great experience. She attended World Cups in 2022, but her best finish was 26th in Jakarta. This year, she only went to the World Championship in Bern, finishing 79th in Lead and 104th in Boulder.
For both, this was their only opportunity to qualify for Paris 2024. Neither competed in enough World Cups to qualify for the OQS next year. They will have to wait for the LA 2028 Olympic cycle for their next chance to qualify for the Olympics.