Nanjing final, great setting and climbing clouded by technical incidents

The final in Nanjing was marked by really good setting, perhaps the best of the season so far, spectacular climbing, and technical incidents. In the end, Team Japan claimed 3 medals (including Keita Watabe‘s first gold) and Shauna Coxsey climbed back to the top of the podium.

Complex movement in Nanjing. The boulders in the finals required a lot of thought to find the best beta and we saw climbers using different options to solve the sequences.

But complex problems don’t need to be slow to climb or boring to watch, and the final in Nanjing proves it. Every problem was fun and spectacular. With climbers falling in different moves and all kind of holds on display.

The men started with a slab, one of the best of the season, that only Narasaki and Watabe managed to top. Narasaki‘s movement on that problem was very impressive, even during his first try he moved as if he had tried the problem several times before.

M2 had a great final move, with lots of tension and uncertainty. Again only two tops: Watabe and Kruder.

M3 was the modern “circus-climbing” one, but several climbers found a way to solve the starting sequence in a static way. That was either genius route setting (finding that balance that allowed both solutions to be doable and attractive enough to be tried) or a fortunate mistake (by mistake meaning the fact that climbers skipped the intended sequence using a, supposedly, easier method).

Jernej Kruder climbing M3. He did the starting sequence “circus-style”.

M4 was the kind of fingery problem that we don’t get to see that often. Narasaki, Watabe, and Chon made it look very easy, getting a flash, but the other 3 climbers couldn’t climb it.

The setting on the female side looked designed to annoy Jain Kim. As great of a climber as she is, dynamic moves usually get her in trouble. She feels much more comfortable with the controlled and static style of climbing that has won her so many medals in lead. But the first 3 problems for the women started with dynamic sequences of which she could do only one (on W2, then she fell touching the top). But, of course, she’s one of the best competitors ever and she didn’t let those unsuccesful problems get to her. On W4 she showed us some of her best climbing, figure four included.

IFSC World Cup Nanjing 2017

Jain Kim trying to top W2.

But don’t get me wrong, the female problems were great too, and left us with some memorable moments: the dyno on W1, the final moves on W2, the coordination (and different options) on W3 or the figure-fours (or powerful lock-offs) on W4…

Shauna Coxsey on W4, she solved the crux with a powerful lock-off.

The setters’ job was even more challenging than usual, given the bad conditions and intense heat at the venue. But they succeded. Just look at the results from the final. From winner to 4th place the climbers (men and women) are ordered by decreasing number of tops. No need to check attempts or bonuses. Obviously, some luck was involved in that, but that’s always the case (it’s just that when 3 climbers are tied with 1 top we simply point our fingers and state loud and clear that the route setting wasn’t good).

IFSC World Cup Nanjing 2017

Keita Watabe about to top M2.

That was the good part of Nanjing, the route setting and the climbing (which luckily are the two most important ingredients). The rest was marked by unfortunate incidents.

There were issues on M1, W1 and W2. And the one on W2 was a big deal.

On M1, once Narasaki was done climbing, judges and officials spent a few minutes discussing if he took 2 or 3 tries to climb the problem. From this side of the screen, and with the advantage of the instant replay, it looked quite obvious. He got into the starting position, then slipped and touched the mat, and got into the starting position again. But in the venue they needed about 4 minutes (of empty mat on the screen) to figure it out.

Shortly after, we witnessed, with frustration, how Miho Nonaka threw away her final try on W1 by failing to match correctly. A very similar situation to that of Jongwon Chon in Chongqing, but with two big differences: 1- during observation, climbers were specifically told which hold was the top on W1, and 2- she didn’t have time to give it another try.

But those two unfortunate incidents pale in comparison to what happened during Mei Kotake‘s topping of W2. While she was about to match on the top, with 12 seconds left, the clock was reset, giving no feedback to the climber (who tried to check it) or the judges. She went ahead and, after some moves and some seconds, matched.

A technical incident was declared and, instead of a top, she got two minutes to try the problem again (and we as spectators got some more minutes of empty mat). She couldn’t climb the problem again.

Whether or not she finished in time can be calculated from the video replay. But I don’t know if the clock on the screen was in perfect sync with the “real” clock. If they were in sync then she finished in time (check pictures below).


With 20 seconds left the video is at 1:16:19 (she can climb until 1:16:39).


She matches at 1:16:37, at least a full second left until 1:16:39.

The clocks seemed to be in very good sync during Watabe’s top of M1 (you can tell by the beeps during the last 5 seconds, click here and listen carefully) and during Kotake’s extra attempt after the incident (again, listen to the beeps carefully).

This suggests that the clocks probably were in good sync during the incident and she topped in time. In any case, if I had to make the call during the comp, I probably wouldn’t trust this kind of dodgy calculations and, even if I were willing to give her the top, the rules are clear: It was a technical incident and she gets 2 extra minutes to climb the problem.

This incident was very unfortunate. It looked really unfair to Kotake and it meant, again, a lot of dead time.

This kind of issues are what make a finals’ duration hard to predict (regardless of the 4 minutes flat vs. plus aspect). Had Kotake topped W2 clearly in time, the final would have been 8 minutes shorter (and at least with the 4+ extra time means extra climbing).

Overall after Nanjing
After three World Cups, the male overall is anybody’s game, theoretically 7 climbers could be in first place after the World Cup in Hachioji and only 37 points separate Watabe (1st) from Chon (2nd).


On the female side, Coxsey and Garnbret are slightly ahead of the pack (only Garnbret can steal the 1st place from Coxsey in Hachioji). But with 4 World Cups left, this is far from decided.

Check the overall ranking: men & women.

Nanjing full results: men & women.

One final thought
During the final, Polish climber Jakub Główka shared a very interesting thought on twitter. With the current dominance of asian athletes and given that this year the last World Cup (Munich), serves as European Championship… could the Male European Champion be decided in the semis? It seems far from impossible…

Pictures by Eddie Fowke, courtesy of the IFSC.

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