IFSC World Cup Series 2024
Wujiang 2024

The story of the day from Wujiang, China, was undoubtedly USA’s Sam Watson posting the worlds quickest time for the Speed discipline – not once, but twice.

As Speed qualification got underway at the IFSC World Cup, thoughts wondered back to the first event of the previous season when both the men’s and women’s world records tumbled in Seoul, South Korea. Once again, the first event of the year brought to fruition the hard winter training with Watson now holder of the men’s world record - as well as lowering his Pan Am record.

In his first run, Watson raced to the top in 4.85 seconds, beating the previous best of 4.90 from Indonesia’s Veddriq Leonardo, and rightly celebrated as he saw the clock. On his second run, he went even quicker with a 4.79, and this time flung out his arms in what looked like a mixture of disbelief and total confidence in his ability. It almost looked like he knew it was going to happen.

Watson said: “Does breaking my own record count as getting [the world record] twice? I don’t know. I’m so excited. It’s a goal I talked about earlier. I said I wanted to be the world record holder. Why not me? Why can’t I do it? And you know what I can. I can do it.”

Behind Watson in second was China’s Wu Peng who, in normal circumstances, would be in top spot with a 4.90, equalling the now former world record. But Speed this year does not feel like normal circumstances.

With the discipline now standalone in the Olympics, times continue to be tumbling just to make it into the final 16. Wujiang was the fastest qualifiers of all time for both the men and women beating the previous best in Chamonix last year – 5.24 compared to 5.27 to qualify for the men and 7.25 compared to 7.40 for the women.

Wu’s teammate Cao Long will also give the crowd lots to cheer progressing in third with a time of 5.08. The pair are two of six Chinese men in the finals.

With the world record now out of the hands of the Indonesians, former holders Kiromal Katibin and Veddriq Leonardo will look to claim it back on their way to a Wujiang medal. Katibin is through in fourth with a time of 5.08, with Leonardo seventh and a time of 5.14.

World champion Matteo Zurloni of Italy will join the finals party progressing in fifth and is joined by teammate Ludovico Fossali in 14th.

Japan’s Ryo Omasa is the 16th man with a time of 5.24.

Full results for the men can be found here

There is also an American at the top of the women’s final seeding as Emma Hunt notched up the quickest time of the day with a 6.44. It’s the first time in her World Cup career Hunt has finished top of qualification.

Hunt said: “It felt really good. I’m happy. It’s exciting to be back at the first World Cup of the year. It’s the first time to get a top seed heading into finals, my aim is to get every seed possible, so I’ve checked another box.”

Poland’s Aleksandra Kalucka is the climber in second with 6.58 and sits just above the home nation’s Deng Lijuan and Zhang Shaoqin. In fourth, Zhang showed great consistency with 6.81 in both of her runs but may need to get quicker to stay in with a shot at a Wujiang medal. The duo will be joined by teammate Fan Jingyue who made it into finals on her World Cup debut with 7.23 and 14th place.

Another model of consistency is fifth placed Jeong Jimin of South Korea who posted two 6.86 races and is just ahead of the women’s world record holder, Poland’s Aleksandra Miroslaw, in fifth.

Another surprise from the day was an uncharacteristic false start from world champion Indonesia’s Desak Made Rita Kusuma Dewi which knocks her out of the competition and leaves teammate Rajiah Sallsabillah as the sole Indonesian interest.

The final climber to make it through in 16th was Italy’s Giuli Randi who tied with Iran’s Mahya Darabian with 7.25 but progressed thanks to a quicker second time of 7.33 compared to Darabian’s 8.08.

Full results for the women can be found here

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