Salt Lake City Speed World Cup Key Takeaways

USA doubles up as Hunt and Watson confirm their Olympic medal favourite status with gold medals in Salt Lake City.

Emma Hunt and Sam Watson smiling and holding up their gold medals
Double gold for the USA as Emma Hunt and Sam Watson win in Salt Lake City © Slobodan Miskovic / IFSC.

Emma Hunt has done it at last. After 16 World Cups and six silver medals, she has finally won her first IFSC Speed World Cup.

Sam Watson won his second World Cup gold medal to make it a double Speed gold medal competition for the USA.

The whole competition was successful for the USA, with many in the large team in the finals, five in both the male and female finals.

The field was significantly reduced because athletes had skipped the World Cup to prepare for the Shanghai Olympic Qualifier Series event next week. Both Watson and Hunt set impressive times despite this, Hunt setting a new Pan American record and Watson running under 5 seconds four times.

What You Need to Know

  • Emma Hunt won her first gold medal ahead of Aleksandra Kalucka, who fell in the final run. Fellow 2024 Olympian, Lijuan Deng finished third, beating Natalia Kalucka.
  • Sam Watson won his second gold medal ahead of compatriot Noah Bratschi. Kevin Amon won the bronze medal in his first final ahead of 2023 World Champion Matteo Zurloni. Amon’s previous highest rank was 20th in Wujiang last month, though he did finish 4th at the Lubin European Speed Cup.
  • Emma Hunt set a new Pan America record of 6.412 in the semi-final run against Lijuan Deng. She is the second fastest woman in the World behind Aleksandra Miroslaw.
  • Both South African athletes Tegwen Oates and Joshua Bryuns set new African continental records in the qualification rounds of 10.77 and 5.93, respectively.
  • Abby Gebert became the first New Zealand athlete to reach a Speed World Cup final in 16th place in 9.02.
  • You can find replays on the Olympic Channel, the IFSC YouTube Channel (geo-restrictions apply) and Eurosport.
  • Full results on the IFSC results service.

Sam Watson wins his second gold as the only athlete to run sub-5 in SLC

When Sam Watson won his first gold medal at age 16 in Edinburgh back in 2022, he was not a favourite, just a young athlete with a lot of promise. He won the silver medal at the 2021 Youth World Championship and a bronze at the 2022 one in Dallas, Texas. He had finished 8th in both Speed World Cups in Salt Lake City, 16th in Villars and 58th in Chamonix. In Edinburgh, all that changed.

He was the fastest in qualification; his fastest run was 5.49. He went on to beat Jinbao Long, the Chamonix 2022 gold medal winner, in a scrappy race in the final with a run of 5.97 to 6.93.

After breaking the World Record last month in Wujiang twice, running under 5 seconds five times and winning the silver medal, Watson is now a favourite for any event he enters.

At the Salt Lake City World Cup, he was the clear favourite, with no Indonesian or top-tier Chinese athletes competing. His closest competitors were Matteo Zurloni, the 2023 World Champion, and Yaroslav Tach from Ukraine, who takes over the mantle from multiple World Champion Danyil Boldyrev. Neither had run under 5 seconds in competition, a time that Watson now makes look pedestrian.

Sam Watson finishing ahead of Matteo Zurloni in the semi-final run
Watson beat 2023 World Champion Matteo Zurloni in the semi-final run © Slobodan Miskovic / IFSC.

Watson was fastest in qualification, dipping under 5 seconds with a 4.99-second run. He then ran under 4.9 three times in the final round, winning the gold medal in 4.89 against his compatriot Noah Bratschi.

“I am so happy to be here in front of my new home turf, as I moved to Salt Lake City only about ten days ago. I am so excited to share this moment with Noah Bratschi and Emma Hunt. But I’m not done yet, world records are coming, faster times are coming, I’m happy with my consistency, but I’m not taking the foot off the gas for sure,” Watson said after his win.

And “why not”?

Emma Hunt total domination as she becomes the second fastest female climber in the World

Emma Hunt was one of the favourites at the event. She has won 6 silver World Cup medals across 16 World Cups. She won the gold medal at the 2019 Youth World Championship. She won the Speed event at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, USA. She was the fastest in qualification in Wujiang last month, finishing in 6.442, making her the second fastest woman in the World.

Emma Hunt is the second fastest female speed climber in the World behind Aleksandra Miroslaw.

Yet, she had never won a World Cup.

That would change in Salt Lake City this year. In qualification, Hunt set the fastest time of the round in 6.57, followed up by a 6.66 in her second run. Only Natalia and Aleksandra Kalucka would dip under 7 seconds in qualification.

In the final round, Hunt would continue to dominate, running 6.64 or under on every run. She broke the Pan American record against Lijuan Deng in the semi-final, finishing in 6.412, 0.17 seconds behind the World Record. In the final race, she beat Aleksandra Kalcuka in 6.55.

Emma Hunt and Aleksandra Kalucka hugging after their final run
Emma Hunt beat Aleksandra Kalucka in the final run to win her first gold medal © Slobodan Miskovic / IFSC.

Despite the absences of the Indonesian team or Aleksandra Miroslaw, Hunt was the fastest in the competition by a long way. Her slowest run of 6.66 was 0.15 seconds faster than any other athlete’s time.

“I’m just so excited, Salt Lake City is kind of like a second home, so it feels like a home-turfy win, and I got to do it with Samuel which is so exciting! I have so many rituals I go through in my competition that there is no time to list them all… I can’t wait to go to Paris, can’t wait to try croissants and all the food!” Hunt commented after the final.

Speed World Cup Series

Sam Watson's win moves him into first place in the World Cup Series on 1805 points. Zurloni's fourth place moves him ahead of Peng Wu into second, while Kevin Amon's third moves him up into fourth.

# Athlete Wujiang SLC Chamonix Briançon Seoul Total Points
1 Sam Watson 2 1 1805
2 Matteo Zurloni 5 4 1155
3 Peng Wu 1 1000
4 Kevin Amon 20 3 845
5 Noah Bratschi 34 2 835
6 Zach Hammer 15 5 785
7 Kiromal Kaitibin 3 690
8 Ludovico Fossali 4 610
9 John Brosler 14 12 560
10 Jingle Huang 17 11 530

Emma Hunt's win moves her into third place in the Speed World Cup Series, while Aleksandra Kalucka's second place moves her into joint first with her sister Natalia. Miroslaw drops to fifth after not competing in Salt Lake City.

# Athlete Wujiang SLC Chamonix Briançon Seoul Total Points
1 Natalia Kalucka 2 4 1415
1 Aleksandra
4 2 1415
3 Emma Hunt 9 1 1380
4 Lijuan Deng 5 3 1235
5 Aleksandra Miroslaw 1 1000
6 Guizhen Xie 14 7 715
7 Jimin Jeong 3 690
8 Mengli Zhang 23 5 665
9 Piper Kelly 20 6 650
10 Jingyue Fan 16 10 570

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