High stakes and low margins for error made the 8th and final Speed event of the 2018 season the most thrilling yet. After qualifications, four athletes were in the hunt for the men’s Speed season title. China’s own JinXin Li eliminated frontrunner Danyil Boldyrev (UKR) in the opening round, making the most of his quick start and capitalising on Boldyrev’s stumble midway. With Boldyrev out, runner-up Dmitrii Timofeev (RUS) could have become Speed season champion by reaching the big final. Timofeev knocked off Speed legend QiXin Zhong of China in the quarterfinal but slipped in the semi-final and the Speed season title slipped from his grasp when Mawem stopped the clock three seconds sooner. Ranked 3rd and 4th before Xiamen, a final win from Reza Alipourshenazandifar (IRI) or Mawem would be enough to clinch their first season title. Winner last weekend Aspar Jaelolo (INA) ended the dream for Alipourshenazandifar in the semi-final on the fastest time of the day (5.560 seconds), and Alipourshenazandifar settled for bronze in the small final. Under 6 seconds on every run this weekend, Mawem bested Jaelolo by two hundredths of a second in the big final to become Speed season champion in the last race of the season, France’s second Speed season title after Anouck Jaubert secured the honour for the second consecutive season last weekend. Boldyrev and Timofeev joined Mawem on the season podium after impressive seasons from both athletes.
The women’s Speed season podium came down to exciting final races in Xiamen as well. Elena Remizova (RUS) recorded multiple times under 8 seconds and eliminated season runner-up Mariia Krasavina (RUS) early in the quarterfinal, and previous Speed winner Susanti Rahayu hung on by one hundredth of a second in the quarterfinal against Elena Timofeeva (RUS). Iuliia Kaplina (RUS) recorded the fastest time of the day (7.400 seconds) to edge Remizova in the semi-final and secure a spot on the Speed season podium, and Susanti Rahayu advanced over Jaubert to meet Kaplina in the big final. Needing nothing short of a victory to bump Krasavina off the season podium, Susanti Rahayu did exactly that in Xiamen, keeping a steady pace as Kaplina slipped high on the wall for her third win in 2018 and 2nd place in the season ranking. Speed season champion Jaubert beat Remizova in the small final for bronze and Kaplina joined her on the season podium.
In the team Speed ranking, Russia extended their winning streak, the only team to top the ranking since the inception of the IFSC in 2007. With their strong performances in China at the end of the season, France and Indonesia placed 2nd and 3rd in the team ranking.
As the sun set behind the skyscrapers of Xiamen, the 7th and last Lead finals concluded the 2018 season. Jakob Schubert (AUT) and Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA) had already secured 1st and 2nd place on the men’s Lead season podium, but Skofic could unseat Romain Desgranges (FRA) with a final victory if Desgranges placed worse than 5th. Hope remained when Desgranges and four other athletes fell near the first crux of the men’s final route, littered with tiny crimps and foot jibs. Hyunbin Min (KOR) was first to find alternative beta around the less positive holds and won the bronze medal, and Ghisolfi set a new high point in falling at the top hold. Last to climb, Skofic needed to rise to the same height to tie Desgranges for 3rd place in the Lead season rankings and share the last remaining spot on the Lead season podium. Skofic responded under pressure and duly matched Ghisolfi’s high point to take the victory in Xiamen on countback to their semi-final scores and join Desgranges on the third rung of the season podium.
Janja Garnbret (SLO), Pilz and Jain Kim (KOR) had already secured 1st, 2nd and 3rd place on the women’s Lead season podium in Wujiang, but that didn’t stop them from climbing hard in Xiamen. Kim just missed the finals cut and the chance to try the powerful and technical last route of the 2018 season. A complex crossover tired a few finalists at the first crux but not Garnbret and Pilz. Garnbret cut feet at the sequence and held on for the first top of finals. Pilz concluded a spectacular IFSC World Cup season with a top of her own and took the victory on countback to semi-finals in which she scored the sole top. Akiyo Noguchi (JPN) also fought hard and fell just short of the top for bronze.
Despite the high climbing of Garnbret and Skofic, Japan moved into 2nd place above Slovenia in the team Lead ranking after sending six athletes to finals in Xiamen and all their athletes to semi-finals. Austria stayed in 1st place, an unrelenting force all season long.
This year, the Overall season titles were decided by a new calculation. Athletes competing in two or more Bouldering, Lead and Speed events were given ranking points based on their relative ranking against one another at counting events. Their top two events per discipline were counted, and the six ranking points were multiplied. In the end, Garnbret defended her Overall season title for the 3rd straight season and Schubert became Overall season champion for the 4th time thanks to their Bouldering and Lead prowess.