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Rock Master 1999
by Vinicio Stefanello

Arco - Sunday 11th of September 1999

Final and conclusive day of this year’s Rock Master.
After Friday’s “Sint Roc Bouldering Contest”, won by the excellent Daniel Andrada (ESP) and Elena Choumilova (RUS), and after the Ukranian Vladimir Zakharov’s impressive victory in Saturday’s parallel speed event, the massive, enthusiastic crowd, stretched out on the lawn, awaits the best in the world – and a thrilling competiton on the final work-out route.

The provisional ranking, based on Saturday’s onsight, sees Evgueni Ovtchinnikov in first place, ahead of Yuji Hirayama (JNP) and François Legrand (FRA). The Italian Bernardino Lagni, making his first appearance at Arco, lies fourth, ahead of his compatriot Chriastian Brenna. Muriel Sarkany (BEL) heads the female category, followed by Katie Brown (USA), Liv Sansoz (FRA), Martina Cufar (SLO) and Isabelle Bihr (FRA).

The women start the day off and the first seven athletes reveal what was to be expected; the routes, as usual set by Marzio Nardi and J.B. Tribout, are highly technical, tricky and difficult. Theirs is a split final though, with the remaining female athletes competing after the men.
So the focus now shifts to the neighbouring route, one which proves so difficult that none of the athletes reach the belay chain. The final roof section, which connects the left wall to the central face, holds the crux. Only three athletes climb past these moves; Christian Bindhammer (GER) is the first to overcome this section, but he falls almost immediately afterwards. All the other athletes fall lower down, and the crowd’s hopes turn to the penultimate competitor, François Legrand. A classy knee bar below the roof enables him to rest before setting on ever up; for an instance it looks as if he will achieve his historic fifth victory, until, at 18.88m, he falls suddenly.
All ends in the best of traditions; the immensely strong Evgueni Ovtchinnikov climbs past Legrand’s highpoint and, to a standing ovation, reaches 21.72 meters. Hirayama is pushed into third place by Legrand, in front of Bindhammer and Brenna.

After all this excitement it is now finally the women’s turn, and their competition proves to be highly intriguing, too. They start in reverse order; Bihr is followed by Cufar, Sansoz, Brown and then Sarkany. All runs smoothly until Katie Brown accidentaly touches a bolt (not used on the route) with her foot. She is allowed to continue and, slowly but inexorably, climbs higher than all the rest. But the jury, after examining the video, decides to penalise her, accepting not her highpoint but the height of the bolt. Muriel Sarkany gives a superb performance and wins this year’s competition, ahead of Liv Sansoz and Martina Cufar.
And so the curtain falls once again over Arco; Rock Master was, as so often in the past, highly popular with both the athletes and the crowd alike. And even though they seem to have hit on the right recipe for success, the Organisational Committee has announced some big changes for next year, Rock Master 2000. will keep you informed.

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