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Mina Markovic
Photo by Urban Golob
Stefano Ghisolfi during the World Championship 2011 at Arco
Photo by Giulio Malfer
Sean McColl
Photo by Elias Holzknecht
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Lead World Cup 2012, Ernst and McColl win in China

15.10.2012 by Franz Schiassi

The sixth stage of the Lead World Cup 2012 took place in Xining, China on 12-13/10/2012 and was won by Johanna Ernst from Austria and Sean McColl from Canada. Stefano Ghisolfi placed third, putting Italy back on the podium after many years absence.

The Xining stage of the Lead World Cup 2012 held numerous surprises in store, some of which unfortunate seeing that a handful of athletes were unable to obtain visa permits. Unconfirmed reports say that the Japanese team was refused a visa due to the tense diplomatic relations between the two countries, although some state the Japanese authorities simply preferred not to expose their athletes to unnecessary risks. The timing of this "accident" seems particularly unfortunate seeing that the provisional leader of the men's was in fact a climber from Japan, Sachi Amma. Similarly, although Chinese athletes are usually extremely competitive in the Speed event, it seems as if at present none are registered for the Japan stage, scheduled to take place in Inzai on 27 and 28 October.

As t the actual competition, in the women's event the Qualification round things proceeded smoothly while in the Semi-final five climbers reached the 26th hold. Four of these had succeeded in topping out on the two qualifying routes and thus proceeded to the final sixth-equal, unlike Jenny Lavarda who missed out on the crowded final: nine athletes instead of the usual eight. The route had been set by Slovenia's Simon Margon and offered technical climbing with numerous occasions to balance carefully and thus save important energy.

Charlotte Durif was the first out in the final and the Frenchwoman fell at the crux which required a long, blind reach around the left-hand arête. Austria's Katharina Posch fell from the same point and energetic Mina Markovic, winner of the Lead World Cup 2011 and current World Cup leader, was the first to stick this section and she then continued upwards to send the entire route. Fourth out Johanna Ernst managed to play safe at the crux thanks to her immense competition experience (despite her mere 20 years of age); she paused just before that fateful 32nd hold and checked out the arête before moving on, all the way to the top, giving rise to fears of a route that was be too easy. But this wasn't to be the case.

In fact the next two athletes, Russia's Evgenia Malamid and Dinara Fakhritdinova, both fell low (26th and 10th hold respectively) and not even young Hélène Janicot nor Magdalena Röck managed to climb past the crux. Last out, Jain Kim from Korea, climbed incredibly elegantly as always (which netted her first place in the Combined Ranking during the 2012 World Championship and second place overall in last year's Lead World Cup) but she fell unexpectedly a few holds short of the top. This meant that victory went to Johanna Ernst and second place to Mina Markovic; the split was made on the time needed to send the route, seeing that they had the same results in the Semi-final and Qualification. In the provisional overall ranking Markovic maintains her lead but Ernst, current third, has now reduced this margin. With another three more stages to go this season, the race for overall victory is still on...

The men's event proved less predictable seeing that Sachi Amma didn't take part as mentioned previously, not did Norway's Magnus Midtbø (6th overall). While the qualifications ran smoothly with 8 athletes sending both routes, in the Semi-final Ramon Julian Puigblanque foot slipped off hold 12. As if to console this surprise exclusion, Italy's hopes were raised by Stefano Ghisolfi who qualified for the final

The men's final route breached a long, horizontal roof which was to get the better of numerous athletes. In the meantime evening fell onto the Xining desert and the combination of clear skies and the altitude of 2500m created particularly cold competition conditions. Ghisolfi climbed second, after Hyunbin Min from Korea, and managed to breach the roof before falling. This performance proved even more impressive after failed assaults by the likes of Mario Lechner from Austria and Manuel Romain from France.

Ghisolfi's highpoint was finally breached by the flying Dutchman Jorg Verhoeven, who climbed just one hold higher than the Italian. Sean McColl climbed next and - perhaps thanks to his Inuit blood or more simply his woolly hat - set sparks alight to fight his way to the top and beat Verhoeven's highpoint by 5 holds. The last two competitors, Romain Desgranges and Jakob Schubert, failed to make significant headway through the roof.

So the men's podium was comprised of Sean McColl, Jorg Verhoeven (who jokingly advised McColl to take his hat off during the national anthem) and Stefano Ghisolfi who with this third place now celebrates his best senior performance to date. In the provisional ranking Puigblanque now takes the lead ahead of Sachi Amma, Sean McColl moves from 5th into 3rd place while Schubert has missed out on this excellent occasion to narrow the margin and slips from 4th to 5th, behind Desgranges…

The next stage will be held in Mokpo, South Korea, on 20 and 21 October.

by Franz Schiassi

Live stream: http://www.ifsc.tv/
Results and calendar: http://www.ifsc-climbing.org

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