Rock Master 2010, the athletes in the special Arco pre-World Championship
The worldclass version of the Rock Master takes place in Arco from 16 -18 July. A quick glance at the 170+ athletes taking part in this important event which acts as a pre-event to the IFSC Climbing World Championship 2011.
The countdown has begun in earnest, one of the most important moments in the competition season 2010 is less than a week away: the Arco Rock Master, which this year has been brought forward from the traditional weekend in September to mid July as it'll act as a dress rehearsal for the World Championship in 2011. And since all dress rehearsals are important, more than 170 athletes will converge on the little town of Arco to test the terrain and gain some vital knowledge and experience for the 20111 World Championship in Italy. 170 athletes is a truly impressive number and the three competition days will be a veritable tour du force, not only for the athletes but also for the route setters, judges and entire organisation team. But Arco - famed for being the capital of sport climbing - has all the experience to host the event in style. The competition promises to be spectacular, also because at the Arco Climbing Stadium they'll be all, truly all the best athletes in the world.
The list of top climbers taking part in Friday's and Saturday's Lead competition is enormous. Starting with reigning World Champion Patxi Usobiaga, who'll have to watch out for Adam Ondra, the 2009 World Cup winner, and Ramón Julien Puigblanque, the undisputed Arco dominator of this last decade. But perhaps it'll be an all-star "outsider" who'll steal the show, Chris Sharma? The American hasn't competed in Arco since 1999 and his return is highly anticipated, also because "The King" has decided to put himself to the test not only in the Difficulty event, but also in the bouldering comp. This double-whammy will also be attempted by, unsurprisingly, Adam Ondra and the extremely strong Canadian Sean McColl who this season is finally realising his full potential. Of course there's the usual, fearsome Austrian squad headed by David Lama and Jakob Schubert, while Italian supporters will be able to enjoy a generational change, with a rejuvenated team comprised of Marcello Bombardi, Nicola De Mattia, Stefano Ghisolfi, Rudi Moroder and Silvio Reffo.
In the women's competition there is one great absentee, the Austrian queen Johanna Ernst who won both the World Cup and the World Championship last year. Her absence, due to injury, doesn't mean that the others will find the competition easy, on the contrary: Angela Eiter and Maja Vidmar are certainly hot favourites, but those in with an excellent chance of winning include Muriel Sarkany from Belgium (World Champion 2003!), her team-mate Chloé Graftiaux, Mina Markovic from Slovenia and the Frenchwomen Caroline Civaldini and Charlotte Durif. Italian hopes rest on the shoulder of expert Jenny Lavarda and the other young Italian hopes: Sara Avoscan, Manuela Valsecchi and Alexandra Ladurner.
The bouldering competition will be headed by the likes of World Champions Alexey Rubtsov and Yulia Abramchuk, as well as the dominators of the 2009 World Cup Kilian Fischhuber and Akiyo Noguchi. It's unlikely however that the competition will go down to the wire between these four! The Italian team for example is stronger than it has been for a long time (Michele Caminati, Niccolo’ Ceria, Christian Core, Stefano Ghisolfi, Gabriele Moroni and Jacopo Larcher) and the Russian squad has registered some of its strongest climbers (read Rustam Gelmanov and Dmitry Sharafutdinov) as has the French team (Guillaume Glairon Mondet and Loïc Gaidioz). And then of course there are plenty of other athletes capable of coming up trumps at just the right moment, such as Swissman Cédric Lachat, Klemen Becan from Slovenia and Stewart Watson from Great Britain.
Abramchuk and Noguchi will have to be on absolute top form, because those hoping for even the smallest of mistakes include Anna Stöhr, Chloé Graftiaux, Alex Johnson, Natalija Gros, Mina Markovic and the "veterans" Olga Bibik and Olga Shalagina. Many have their sights set on the double-whammy Lead + Boulder including Jenny Lavarda from Italy and her teammate Alexandra Ladurner. Arco promises to be a great event for them therefore, as well as for the other Italian taking part in the bouldering comp, Elena Chiappa.
The champions aren't missing from the Speed comp, either. Edyta Ropek from Poland and Sergey Sinitsyn from Russia - the winners of the 2009 World Cup - will be there, as will the reigning World Champions Qixin Zhong and Cuilian He from China. The piste is 15m high and those in with a chance of winning will be, above all, the teams from the East, from Russia and the Ukraine. Italy will hope to put to good use it's home advantage, but Sara and Jessica Morandi, Stefano Ghisolfi, Leonardo Gontero and Michel Sirotti will not find it easy.
This is this year's novelty, the speed competition for teams, a vertical relay race for mixed squads (men and women) of three climbers. China and Russia are the great favourites for the title obviously, but Poland, the Ukraine and Venezuela could also have a say in the matter. And then of course there's Italy, with two teams hoping for a medal.
ARCO ROCK LEGENDS
A competition within the competition, or rather, the prestigious two Arco Rock Legend awards assigned by the most important climbing magazines in the world. Those in the running for the Salewa Rock Award, i.e. for sport climbing and bouldering, are Charlotte Durif, Enzo Oddo, Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma and Daniel Woods. While those in with a chance of winning the La Sportiva Competition Award are Johanna Ernst, Akiyo Noguchi and Adam Ondra. It'll be no mean task for the journalists representing 23 different magazines. Just like all the athletes hoping for victory in the competitions won't find be in for a walk in the park next weekend. Our heartfelt best wishes to all of them!