ASIAN REGION READY TO BOOK PARIS 2024 TICKETS
Fifty-two men. Thirty-nine women. Just four tickets up for grabs. The next stop on the Road to Paris 2024 is the IFSC Asian Qualifier Jakarta which will give see four more climbers take a massive step closer to realising their dream of an Olympic appearance at next year’s summer showpiece.
One men’s and one women’s qualifier in both the Boulder & Lead discipline and Speed disciplines will emerge from what will be a hotly contested battle at the newly built outdoor venue in the Gelora Bung Karno, Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Asian region already has four athletes confirmed to become Olympians with Japan’s Ai Mori and Narasaki Tomoa in the Boulder & Lead and Indonesia’s Dewi Made Rita Kusuma Dewi and China’s Long Jinbao in the Speed securing their spots at the IFSC World Championships in Bern in August, and more will join by the end of the week.
A red-hot favourite in the men’s Boulder & Lead is Japan’s Anraku Sorato. The 16-year-old had the great Jakob Schubert of Austria singing his praises at Bern 2023 and he has been living up to the hype. Becoming the first ever IFSC World Cup Boulder series holder and Lead series holder in the same season, Anraku is currently on a run of three Lead World Cup golds and a Boulder & Lead win at the recent Asian Games.
Joining Anraku on the podium in Hangzhou was China’s Tokyo 2020 Olympian Pan Yufei and South Korea’s Lee Dohyun, and they will once again be vying for the top step. Lee’s compatriot Chon Jongwon is also in action looking to make a second Olympic appearance and Japan’s Narasaki Meichi will be hoping to take the same flight as his brother Tomoa to the French capital next year.
On the opposite end of the scale, Juan Miguel Azupardo from the Philippines is making his senior climbing debut, and what an introduction with Olympic tickets on the line.
Azupardo said: “I had some friends convince me to come and I am here for the experience and the exposure. I’d like to build to LA28 but I haven’t really made any plans just yet, I want to see where my competitive climbing can take me for now.”
On the women’s side of things, Seo Chaehyun had to settle for silver at the Asian games when rain cut short their competition, but that only made the South Korean climber more determined to get gold and the Olympic ticket in Jakarta.
Seo is alongside another great in the sport, teammate Kim Jain, who no-one in the climbing community would begrudge a shot at an Olympic medal to add to what is already a stellar career.
Kim said: “The 2023 season was the most challenging and longest for me, but on the other hand, it was also very meaningful.
“It is tough for me that I have to compete now with my favourite climbers for just one ticket, but I want to focus on finishing the year with a good climb in the last competition, rather than getting caught up on those thoughts.”
There is Olympic experience in the starting list with Seo, but also Japan’s Miho Nonaka who will hope that she can take the first step to defending, or bettering, her Tokyo 2020 silver medal.
China’s Zhang Yuetong is fresh off a Boulder & Lead medal when she joined Seo and the already qualified Ai Mori on the Asian Games podium.
From the women’s Chinese Boulder & Lead to the Speed. Niu Di and Deng Lijuan are always in the medal conversation before an event and Jakarta is no different, although they will have to contend with the home climbers.
World champion Dewi Desak already has her ticket, but Rajiah Sallsabillah and Nurul Iqamah have shown their speed with World Cup medals to their names in 2023. Add into that a roaring home crowd for a few extra split seconds push and anything is possible.
Iqamah said: “I’m so excited for the qualifier in my country and with the positive vibes from my people. Myself and the whole team are ready for this event.”
Sallsabillah said: “It feels great and it's an extra boost with this round being held in Jakarta. The training is going well, and I'm ready to compete.”
For the men’s Speed, it’s obvious to look at the home nation with record holders and World Cup medallists galore. Leonardo Veddriq. Kiromal Katibin. Rahmad Adi Mulyono. All three can go sub-5. All three can win golds. But only once can get a Paris ticket in Jakarta.
There’s still plenty of competition looking to take the top step away from the locals favourites. Iran’s Reza Alipour Shenazandifard reminded everyone at the Asian Games he is still quick defending his title. China’s Wu Peng and Wang Xinshang have shown their credentials in 2023. Japan’s Ryo Omasa won his countries first ever men’s Speed World Cup medal earlier in the year. And Kazakhstan’s Rishat Khaibullin has Olympic experience and focusing purely on his favoured discipline now.
Omasa said: “I know this event is the most important for me in 2023, but I try to spend my time as I usually do because I feel stress and nervous if I think too deeply about the event.
“I’ve had good training without getting sick or injured and I recorded my personal best time in training, but obviously that’s not official. Yet.”
The action begins at 10:00 (UTC+7:00) with the qualification rounds of Boulder & Lead for the men and women and will culminate on Sunday 12 November with four new names added to the ever growing list of Paris 2024 climbing entrants.
South Korea's Kim Jain competes at the IFSC World Cup Chamonix 2023
Photo: Jan Virt/IFSC