IFSC WORLD CUP HACHIOJI 2023: Q&A WITH NOGUCHI AKIYO
With the IFSC World Cup Hachioji 2023 starting, we had a quick catch-up with someone who knows a thing or two about climbing, and climbing in Japan, Olympic bronze medallist Noguchi Akiyo, for some thoughts on the event and her ones-to-watch.
You stepped away from competing on the World Cup circuit last year, what did you do with your time?
Climbing is still a big part of my life. I hold climbing classes for children and adults as well as climbing events and competitions. In addition, I am spending a lot of time doing TV appearances and at events other than climbing.
Did you follow the IFSC World Cup last year?
I do TV commentary in Japan, and of course, I support the Japanese team, so I watch all the World Cup events, whether it's Lead, Boulder, or Speed, as much as possible.
Do you still have contact with the Japanese Climbing team?
Some of the climbers come to practice at the gym in my parents' house, and I go to the domestic competitions and talk with members of the Japanese Climbing team there. I always watch Tomoa and Meichi (Narasaki) training as well.
What are your memories from Hachioji?
I was second at the World Cup held for the first time in Hachioji in 2017. And then I won the 2018 World Cup. At the 2019 World Championships, I placed second in Boulder and second in the Combined, and that place secured me qualification for the Olympics. So, a lot of good memories for me from Hachioji.
What advice would you give athletes competing, maybe for the first time in Hachioji?
Hachioji is a big city, so you can enjoy a good dinner after climbing – I’d recommend that. Also, I hear that the tickets for the event are sold out, so I think it's going to be a wonderful environment with a lot of spectators so try to enjoy the experience.
Who should we look out for in Hachioji, who are the ones-to-watch?
In the men's it has to be Sorato Anraku for me. He won the Boulder & Lead Japan Cup the other day and I believe he is a 16-year-old who will challenge for World Cup medals this year. Expectations are high to see how well he can demonstrate his abilities in international competitions.
The woman, well obviously it’s Japan's ace, Miho Nonaka. I'm sure she will be involved in the fight all year, right from the first event in Hachioji.
What about the whole season, who are your ones-to-watch there?
For the men's event, I’m picking France's Méjdi Schalck. With Paris 2024 coming up, the young French ace will be under a little bit of pressure, but I’m sure he will give some great performances.
On the women's side, it might seem like a popular opinion, but I'm really looking forward to the return of Janja Garmbret of Slovenia. I often see her training on social media, and I really respect her for being strong every year. I want to see her back performing at the competitions soon.
Climbing starts in Hachioji, Japan, with the women’s Boulder qualification at 09:00 (UTC+9:00) before the men’s qualification at 16:30 (UTC+9:00) on Friday, 21 April.
Noguchi Akiyo competes in the women's Combined final at Tokyo 2020
Photo: Leo Zhukov/IFSC