LUKAN LOOKING FORWARD TO HOME CROWDS IN KOPER
The penultimate IFSC World Cup of the 2023 season sees Lead climbers from around the world return to the Slovenian coastal city of Koper for two days of competition.
Held at Plus Climbing Koper from 8 to 9 September, 140 climbers from 27 nations will compete for the second successive year in one of the oldest towns in Slovenia.
Since the last time the athletes took to a World Cup wall in Briancon, France for Lead, there has been two World Championships – the senior competition in Bern, Switzerland, and the youth competition in Seoul, South Korea.
Among the 69 men and 71 registered athletes are competitors who have stood on the podiums from both events.
In the women’s competition, you wouldn’t be able to mention a climbing event in Slovenia without mentioning the Olympic champion, Janja Garnbret. Adding to her medal collection in Bern with a silver in Lead and gold in the Boulder & Lead discipline, you can’t rule out the Slovenian putting on another podium show in her homeland.
Another Slovenian world champion joining Garnbret will be Sara Copar who won the U20 title in Seoul just a few weeks ago. Garnbret and Copar are two of the twelve women competing at home.
At Briancon before the World Championships interlude, Vita Lukan won her first ever World Cup gold medal and is yet another Slovenian interest for the crowd to shout about.
Talking about her season so far Lukan said: “The 2023 season started far from ideal. I injured my knee at the beginning of January and had surgery in late March. The prognosis wasn’t great, but somehow the rehab was successful, and I could start climbing on the rope quite soon.
“It was quite tricky to train hard but avoid falling on the mats; mainly because in Slovenia we usually train only on the spray wall. So I have to say a big thanks to my coach Domen for his great training adaptations.
“Luckily my knee was in good condition to do the last Boulder comp, which I actually needed for a combined ranking, so I started my World Cup season in Innsbruck. The shape was not there yet, but I was really excited about training, climbing, and general, so I kept pushing. In the following weeks, I did some proper training sessions and gained some confidence which is crucial for performing well at the comps. The breakthrough was a final in Chamonix.”
After her ‘breakthrough’ things got better as Lukan won her first World Cup gold, but it nearly didn’t happen: “The original plan was to skip Briancon in order to prepare for the World Champs, but I caught a good comp flow and I decided to compete there – definitely a decision I don’t regret.
“The win was really unexpected which makes it even more special. It wasn’t the easiest season for me, and I felt rewarded for all time spent hanging on a beastmaker and just watching others climb. Of course, it was a great confidence boost and I was really excited before the World Champs but I didn’t put any additional pressure on myself because there are many girls really on fire this season.”
Competing at home for any athlete is always special, and for Lukan, it is no different: “Slovenia is really small, and everybody can come and watch the comp. So many of my friends will be there and I would love to show them a good performance. After Janja’s gold medal at the Olympics, Sport Climbing is getting a lot of attention in Slovenia and I believe that will contribute a lot to the amazing atmosphere in Koper.
“My goal for Koper is quite simple – to show my best and hope that will be enough to be a part of Saturday’s spectacle.”
Other notable names on the start list are last year’s winner in Koper and the Lead world champion, Japan’s Mori Ai. Mori is joined by another Lead World Championships medallist, South Korea’s Seo Chaehyun, and the Boulder & Lead silver medallist from Bern, Austria’s Jessica Pilz.
Hoping to replicate last year’s success, USA’s Brooke Raboutou will also be in action alongside compatriots Natalia Grossman and Kyra Condie.
For the men, the 2022 podium will be in attendance as gold medallist - Slovenia’s Luka Potocar, silver medallist - Switzerland’s Sascha Lehmann and bronze medallist - Germany’s Yannick Flohe all return to Koper.
Heading the youth charge will be Belgium’s Hannes Van Duysen who is fresh from Seoul with the U20 world title and the Japanese climber who has taken 2023 by storm, Anraku Sorato.
Anraku was eligible for the Youth World Championships but decided to skip the competition after a stellar debut year in which he has won a World Cup Boulder gold medal, the 2023 Boulder series title and silver in Lead at the World Championships in Bern.
The Japanese climber was also the last World Cup Lead winner taking the top step of the podium in Briancon at the last event. As one of seven Japanese Briancon finalists, Anraku yet again is among a strong national contingent with nine men competing.
World Championships medallists joining the young gun will be Germany’s Alex Megos who took bronze in Lead and USA’s Colin Duffy who took silver in the Boulder & Lead as well as Great Britain’s Toby Roberts who won his first World Cup Lead gold medal in Chamonix, France in July.
Climbing begins on 8 September at 09:00 (UTC+2:00) with men’s and women’s qualification ahead of the semi-finals at 20:00. The finals are set for 20:00 on 9 September.
Vita Lukan (SLO) competes in Lead at the IFSC World Cup Briancon
Photo: Jan Virt/IFSC