BERN 2023 PREVIEW: MEN’S BOULDER AND LEAD
With the IFSC Climbing and Paraclimbing World Championships set from 1 to 12 August, the Swiss capital Bern will be welcoming 428 climbers from across the globe with world titles and Olympic qualification up for grabs.
Among the total of 10 Olympic qualification spots available at Bern 2023, at the end of the event three men from 139 Boulder and 141 Lead athletes will get the golden tickets in the Boulder & Lead format for Paris 2024.
As the 2023 season began thoughts of Paris 2024 were already creeping into people’s minds, and attention was turning to the French climbers to see if they would start to show the potential of pleasing a home crowd come July next year.
Mejdi Schalck quickly made sure he was the name on everyone’s lips. The exciting young climber took gold in the Boulder World Cup opener in Hachioji, Japan, and followed it up with another in Seoul, South Korea just a week later.
Schalck wasn’t the only French climber to visit the podium in 2023 with Paul Jenft joining his teammate in the Hachioji medal spots and Sam Avezou showing his flexibility between disciplines with a bronze in Boulder in Innsbruck, Austria and a silver in Lead in front of a home crowd in Chamonix.
Add in the bronze medallist in Boulder from the last World Championships in 2021, Manuel Cornu, and the French team will be ones to watch in Bern.
When you look at teams, in the men’s disciplines Japan definitely caught the eye this year, none more so than when seven out of the eight Lead finalists at the Briançon World Cup were from the last Olympic host nation.
Some of the names to look out for include Fujii Kokoro who took Boulder silver at the last World Championships, Ogata Yoshiyuki and Narasaki Meichi who both podiumed during the 2023 World Cup Boulder season and Narasaki Tomoa – Meichi’s brother, 2021 World Championships silver medallist and winner of the Boulder World Cup in Salt Lake City, USA, earlier in the year.
Tomoa said: “I have been training with the focus on the World Championships in Bern. I have confidence and high expectations of myself. My goal for Bern is to get the ticket for Paris 2024. It might be that I put too much pressure on myself, but I believe in myself that I can produce my best performance.”
The Japanese climber that really caught the eye though was the young Anraku Sorato. In his first senior season Anraku built his confidence through the World Cup Boulder series culminating in a gold in Innsbruck, and with it the 2023 Boulder World Cup series title.
Anraku isn’t just a Boulder specialist though. As one of the seven Briançon finalists, he also took a Lead gold in what so far has been a magical year. If there is a climber on a high going into a World Championships, its Anraku.
Also brimming with confidence is Great Britain’s Toby Roberts. This time last year Anraku and Roberts were fighting it out for Youth Worlds medals. Now, 12 months on, both have a World Cup gold in both Boulder and Lead in their pockets and look set to continue their battle in Bern on the senior stage. Roberts will also have compatriot Hamish McArthur who took a Lead bronze medal in 2021 to take national inspiration from when it comes to stepping up onto Worlds podium.
With youth seemingly coming to the fore in Boulder, helped by Belgium’s Hannes Van Duysen winning his country’s first ever men’s World Cup medal in Hachioji and South Korea’s Lee Dohyun also taking his first ever World Cup gold in Prague, Czech Republic, there were still climbers showing experience matters.
Lee’s teammate and mentor Jongwon Chon took a Boulder World Cup medal in his homeland, as did the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra when he returned to World Cup action in Prague.
Ondra also stepped up onto the Lead podium in Villars, Switzerland, and was joined by Germany’s Alexander Megos and Austria’s Jakob Schubert. It was both Megos and Schubert’s second Lead World Cup in consecutive competitions, although for the Austrian his gold in Villars made him the men’s all time World Cup record holder.
For Megos, he will have strong company from the German team with the 2021 Combined World Championships winner Yannick Flohé and the silver medallist in that competition, Philipp Martin, joining him in Bern.
In the first Lead World Cup of 2023 in Innsbruck, it was Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann who took the top spot, and he will be hoping a repeat in his homeland will be on the cards.
Other names to look out for will be the North American contingent that includes the World Cup appearance record holder, Canadian Sean McColl, and USA national appearance holder Sean Bailey. Although not quite hitting the standards they set in 2022, Bailey’s teammates Jesse Grupper and Colin Duffy will hope Bern can change their medal fortunes around.
Slovenia’s Luka Potocar will also be hoping Bern brings good fortune so he can add to the World Championships Lead silver he took in 2021, and with Olympic tickets up for grabs, who can forget the current Olympic champion, Spain’s Alberto Ginés López.
As part of the Olympic programme, the IFSC is running the Olympic Universality Programme which offers climbers from developing nation’s a chance to compete at the showpiece event, and one of the athletes in that programme, and who will be in Bern, is North Macedonia’s Matej Markov.
Markov looks back on a big year for him saying: “So far 2023 has been really good for me, mainly on a personal level because of the traveling I did. When it comes to my training that has definitely gotten more intense in order to improve.”
When it comes to Bern, Markov said: “For the upcoming World Championships, I just feel happy to be participating. My goal is simple, to try my best and enjoy the climbing. Of course, it being my first World Championships will put more pressure on me, but it just means I want to train more and participate in other World Championships in the future.”
Climbing begins for the men at IFSC World Championships Bern 2023 with Boulder qualification at 09:00 (UTC+2:00) on 1 August and Lead qualification at 09:00 on 3 August.
News and updates about the IFSC World Championships Bern 2023 will be available on the official website of the event, on the IFSC event page, and on the Federation’s digital channels: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and exclusively for the Chinese audience, Douyin and Weibo.
This is the third in a series of Bern 2023 previews following women’s Boulder and Lead, and men’s and women’s Speed with Paraclimbing still to come.
North Macedonia's Matej Markov competes at the IFSC World Cup Brixen 2023 in Boulder
© Dimitris Tosidis/IFSC