Six Japanese athletes qualified for finals in Vail, as well as three American athletes competing on their home turf. Rei Sugimoto of Japan started strong, solving the opening dyno and friction climbing of M1 on his first attempt. His teammate Tomoa Narasaki and Sean Bailey of the United States matched the performance with flashes of their own. Bailey and Sugimoto pulled away on M2, adding another flash on the pure power problem. Sugimoto took the lead by maintaining his balance and showing flexibility on the M3 slab for his third top, which Narasaki also completed. Bailey needed a flash of M4 to regain the lead and nearly accomplished the feat with a packed crowd cheering behind him, but he fell with one hand on the final hold. The door was open for Narasaki to do the same, but like Bailey he came up just short of the top. It was the second victory for Sugimoto, who last won gold in 2013. Bailey placed 2nd for his first IFSC World Cup medal, completing two tops in one less attempt than Narasaki. Season leader Jernej Kruder of Slovenia placed 4th.
In the women’s final, Miho Nonaka of Japan took an early lead with a quick top of the W1 slab. 2017 Vail finalist Alex Puccio energised the home crowd by keeping her composure on the slippery volumes to top with under 40 seconds remaining. Both athletes completed the jump and strong climbing of W2, as well as Fanny Gibert of France. Only Nonaka’s teammate Akiyo Noguchi found the solution to W3, using her full body to wrestle past compression moves and the tenuous upper section to join the running for gold. When Gibert and Noguchi couldn’t solve W4, the grand finale in Vail came down to the last climber on the last problem. Needing a top to surpass Nonaka, Puccio powered through the sequence of pinches, scored the outstretched zone point and stuck the final dyno with one hand to secure her second victory since 2009 in Vail. Nonaka placed 2nd with two tops to regain the lead in the season rankings ahead of Noguchi, who finished in 3rd place with more zone points than Gibert for Japan’s fourth medal of the competition. For more results, visit the Vail event page on the IFSC website.
Among Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 qualified athletes, Hannah Meul of Germany came up just one top short of qualifying for her first IFSC World Cup final and placed 10th. Mao Nakamura of Japan also climbed well in Vail, competing alongside Meul in semi-finals and finishing in 13th place. Nakamura’s compatriot Keita Dohi just missed the semi-finals cut.
The complete results, highlights, replays and photos can be found on the Vail event page. Stay tuned to the IFSC website for information about the finals replay for viewers from the USA.