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Ramòn Julien Puigblanque wins his fourth Arco Rock Master.
Ramòn Julien Puigblanque wins his fourth Arco Rock Master.
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Angela Eiter from Austria has won her fifth Rock Master
Angela Eiter from Austria has won her fifth Rock Master
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Adam Ondra
Adam Ondra
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Mina Markovic
Mina Markovic
Photo by Giulio Malfer
PORTFOLIO / gallery Slide Show

Eiter and Puigblanque reign supreme at Rock Master 2009!

06.09.2009 by Vinicio Stefanello

Angela Eiter from Austria has won her fifth Rock Master, Ramòn Julien Puigblanque his fourth. With these victories the two equal the records set by legendary climbers Lynn Hill and Francois Legrand.

Champions at times move you. Never before has this been closer to the truth. Because Rock Master is always something that needs to be conquered, nothing can ever be taken for granted and nothing can ever be left to chance. Here you have to climb with heart, mind and power. Believe to the bitter end. And this is exactly how Angela Eiter achieved her impossible comeback, scaling up the provisional results to re-win the Rock Master. And it was thanks to his immense power and an unstoppable upwards thrust that Ramon Julian Puigblanque maintained his lead, winning the competition in fantastic style. This is Eiter's fifth Rock Master victory and Puigblanque's fourth. Both now top the Hall of Fame, equalling the records of legendary Lynn Hill and Francois Legrand. This speaks words about how great these two young champions really are!

2009 will be remembered as the Rock Master of surprises. An edition which combined, within the short space of just one morning, great disappointments and even greater emotions which only cutting-edge sport is capable of producing. Angela Eiter was fourth after Saturday's on-sight, behind Charlotte Durif from France, the extraordinary Ja-Jin Kim from Korea and above all behind Johanna Ernst, her 17 year old teammate who last year usurped her throne, winning all there is to win, including the World Championships. Yesterday in fact Ernst had been the only athlete who climbed regally to the top of the route. So who in their right mind would place their bets on Eiter in this second "afterwork" round?

The answer came after the first bunch of athletes had had their say: Caroline Ciavaldini from France, young Alexandra Ladurner from Italy, Alexandra Eyer from Switzerland, Juliane Wurm from Germany and Maja Vidmar from Slovenia. By now the crowd had gathered that the route was complicated right from the start, above all on that traverse right which marked the end of the first section. That traverse was not only difficult, it was also extremely beautiful. Only Ciavaldini interpreted the moves perfectly but she then lacked the strength to continue upwards. The others fared less well, including Vidmar. At the eve of the competition the Slovenian was a strong contender for victory, but Vidmar fell lower still than Ladurner who celebrated her Arco debut this year. Even if all had battled hard through that traverse, hopes dimmed of seeing what lay in store higher up the wall. But then Angela Eiter stepped into the arena. And right from the outset everyone understood that she had placed all her bets on herself.

Eiter the warrior suffered, pushed herself, took risks and found the key through that truly perverse traverse. Then she launched upwards towards the top and the crowd let loose, free at last. Eiter was pushed upwards by their cheers, she almost broke through the massive wavy roof and used up every ounce of energy that was stored in her body. Her upwards ride was great, immense like the cheers which the Arco crowd granted her. "I'm still here Eiter" seemed to say. "And the injury which kept me away from the comps is practically a thing of the past." Yes, it was touching to be with this champion once again.

No one knew it at the time, but at the end of the day these emotions would be all the greater. After Eiter it was Mina Markovic's turn. It was almost a play-off between them since they had been tied in 4th together with the other Slovenian, Nataljia Gros. Markovic climbed superbly but fell touching the hold which Eiter had managed to hold. Then came the unexpected debacle of Natalija Gros, the third Slovenian in the competition and another victim of that treacherous traverse. It was later still that things happened which no one would ever have dreamed of. Those still to come were Durif, revelation Kim and above all the extraordinary Ernst.

But before they climbed it was time for the men. Their route was long. 60 moves and no one in the crowd could hazard a guess about who could reach the top, if not the eternal rivals Patxi Usobiaga from Spain's Basque country and his Catalonian counterpart Ramòn Julian Puigblanque. They led the field thanks to their tops the day before, but another strong contender was, naturally, Adam Ondra, the terrible youngster who was provisional third thanks to his near miss, by the closest of margins, of the top on Saturday. Everyone's bets were on these three. Right from the beginning though Jorg Verhoeven climbed extraordinarily high. Yesterday the Dutchman had disappointed everyone: his low fall meant provisional 12th. But today the champion everyone knew seemed to be back on form, the very same one who had won the 2008 World Cup. Or perhaps the route was too simple...  

Naturally this wasn't the case. This climb was a slow but sure massacre, one step at a time it devoured clarity and strength and one by one all the athletes fell, when the journey to the top was still a long one. This is what happened to Valeriy Kryukov from the Ukraine, Thomas Tauporn from Germany and also Flavio Crespi from Italy who showed that he is returning to fighting form after his long absence due to injury. Tomás Mrazek, the champion and warrior of a thousand battles, fell lower than expected, too. Frenchman Romain Desgranges and Slovenian Kleman Becan suffered a similar fate and fell at the same height. Unlike Swissman Cédric Lachat who geared up for one of his usual unexpected performances, climbing almost as high as Verhoeven. This was something that (unstoppable) Austrian Jakob Schubert almost managed to do, too.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan and by now everyone was waiting for the usual trio, but then David Lama took to the stage and hit like a bomb. The 19 year old Austrian ace was overwhelming right from move one. He climbed like a missile and found a way to "rest" at half height, jamming his shoulder against the wall and facing out to the crowd just below the big roof. He then shot upwards and his climb got the crowd to their feet Another rest, wedged tight on the move between the two walls, and off he went once again, the crowd giving him a standing ovation when he finally returned back to the ground. Majestic!

Now it was time for the grand final. The one with the top three men and women alternating turns to come into the arena in their quest for gold. But the pressure in a competition like the Rock Master is always ready to play a leading role. This resulted in Charlotte Durif falling there, low down, on that terrible traverse. Adam Ondra then began his devastating, lightening fast climb: in the wink of an eye he flew past all the moves. Watching him climb was spectacular, but just when he seemed predestined for the top he fell, right where Lachat did. Now it was up to Ja-In Kim to show her worth and, judging by how easily she climbed through the crux, it seemed that she was destined to reach the sky. But things turned out otherwise: the Korean ground to a halt beneath the massive wave, significantly lower than both Eiter and  Markovic.

Practically everything was the opposite now of what had been predicted. And so when Usobiaga set off no one could believe their eyes: the World Champion climbed the first few moves, slipped and fell. Like Durif he missed the train to victory. Things were incredible enough at that but then something happened to Johanna Ernst which is quite simply unthinkable: the World Champion fell after a couple of holds, there where no one had even hesitated. She too lost all her chances of victory and, like Usobiaga, tumbled to 7th overall. Which meant that gold went to Eiter, separated from Markovic by the slightest of margins.

When the last man out, Puigblanque, set off, no one knew what to think and expect. Apart from the man himself; with his usual lightness he dynoed and flew from hold to hold. His was a dance comprised of power and elegance and the ovation pushed him high, almost to the chain at the end of the route. The crowd then went wild and proclaimed him winner, king of Arco once again.

This is how the 23rd Rock Master came to an end With Charlotte Durif and Cédric Lachat in 4th place, Ja-In Kim and Adam Ondra in 3rd, Mina Markovic and David Lama in 2nd. Angela Eiter and Ramon Julien Puigblanque won and thanks to this victory the two top the Hall of Fame. Their emotions and joy must be immense, just like that of Leonardo Di Marino and Donato Lella, the route setters of this magnificent competition. They risked it, took their chances with these difficult routes and in the end were proved right: the comp couldn't have been more beautiful.

But the marathon Rock Master still hadn't come to an end, there was still the Ennio Lattisi Duel and the spectacle only drew to a close late in the afternoon. In this classic and exciting head to head reserved for the top four, Lachat qualified for the final by beating Puigblanque, whilst Ondra beat Lama. In the  small final Puigblanque made the sprint of his life to beat Lama, only just. But the most exciting sprint was the duel for gold where, after a prodigious comeback, Ondra gave away a fraction of a section to Lachat, who clinched victory. In the women's duel Kim beat Eiter in the final, after Markovic won bronze by beating Durif.

All of this happened at the Rock Master in a competition which surely ranks as one of the most beautiful, exciting, unpredictable and incredible ever to be seen here at Arco. All of this was seen, experienced and applauded by the 10000 spectators who flocked to the legendary Climbing Stadium wall. They were something quite spectacular in a spectacular show which next year promises to be truly unique: the special Rock Master will take place from 16 to 17 July 2010 as a final dress rehearsal for the IFSC Climbing World Championship which Arco will host in 2011. The city of Arco continues to be the centre of world sport climbing!

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