The UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season, partnered by Outdoor Research, concludes this coming weekend, 23-25 January, 2020 in the renowned resort of Saas-Fee, Switzerland. For over twenty years this iconic stage in competition ice climbing has hosted international events with aplomb. Come Friday and Saturday evening not only are World Cup medals up for grabs, the overall World Tour titles are on offer too.
Over 110 athletes from 21 different nations, a season record, are set to compete in the Swiss Alps following competitions in Changchun City, China and Cheongsong, South Korea. The local crowd will be hoping to see some of their young favourites put in star turns. The burgeoning Swiss team, comprising the likes of Yannick Glatthard, Sina Goetz, Vivien Labarile, Nikolai Primerov and Jonathan Brown, is made up of 13 athletes.
Highlights from Round 2: Cheongsong
Women’s lead: Tolokonina v Shin
In blunt terms, the women’s World Tour crown will be decided by whoever between Maria Tolokonina (Russia) and Woonseon Shin (South Korea) climbs highest or fastest. Both are locked on 180 points after a gold and a silver a piece. History is on Shin’s side. She won in Saas-Fee last year with Tolokonina making an uncharacteristic mistake early on in her final climb. Sina Goetz (120) currently holds third place and will look to finish the season on the podium. World Cup victory in Switzerland could be open to a wider group of athletes should either Shin or Tolokonina slip from their elevated standards. The likes of Goetz, Marion Thomas (France), Eimir McSwiggan (Ireland) and Ekaterina Vlasova (Russia) will at least look to mount a challenge on the podium places. History is not on their side – not since Rabenstein in 2018, when Hannarai Song triumphed, have Shin or Tolokonina failed to take gold.
Men’s Lead: Safdarian holds the cards
Iran’s Mohammadreza Korouyeh Safdarian’s won his sole World Cup gold medal at the aforementioned World Cup in Rabenstein in 2018. He may not need to win gold to claim the season crown as a second and a fifth place give him a lead on 131 points. The two gold medals to date have been claimed by Louna Ladevant of France in China and Russia’s Maxim Tomilov in South Korea. Both will have a chance of the overall title and this despite Tomilov (100) not competing in China and Ladevant (126) performing disappointingly in round 2. Perhaps the favourite is the defending champion. Nikolai Kuzovlev (117) has not hit the heights of last season but he lies just 15 points off the leader and rarely fails to make the podium. South Korea’s Kwon Younghye (106) will need to turn solid performances into something a little special. In terms of overall victory, Glatthard will eye a repeat success in his home venue with Heeyong Park, although probably out of the World Title running, also bringing a successful Saas-Fee history. However, Safdarian starts as the man to beat.
Women’s Speed: Bogdan seeks first title
In women’s speed Tolokonina (180) is no longer challenging her stellar compatriot Ekaterina Koscheeva but the young pretender Valeriia Bogdan (180). Following a gold and silver, the two are tied on points. Saas-Fee’s speed format – no duels – and often brittle ice wall throw a different set of challenges so World Cup gold could prove wide open. Regularly impressing this season are Russia’s Alena Vlasova, two bronze medals, compatriot Iulia Filateva and Finland’s Enni Bertling.
Men’s Speed: Nemov uncatchable?
Anton Nemov (200 points) has claimed the two gold medals to date, has a 55-point advantage over his nearest rival, won in Saas-Fee last year, and is the defending World Tour champion. Providing he reaches the final round, the title should be his. Nikita Glazyrin (145) and Kuzolvev (145) have both won a silver and a bronze and will have their eyes on gold. Mongolia’s Kherlen Nyamdoo (110) will look to turn fourth place into his country’s first World Cup medal.
Speed Finals, Friday 24 January, from 20:00 local time
Women’s Lead Semi-Finals, Saturday 25 January, from 08:30 local time
Men’s Lead Semi-Finals, Saturday 25 January, from 13:30 local time
Lead Finals, Saturday 25 January, from 19:00 local time
The event page for Saas-Fee can be viewed here
The full programme from Saas-Fee can be downloaded here
Details on registered athletes and live results are available here
TITLE SPONSOR UIAA ICE CLIMBING WORLD TOUR