Luka Potocar and Ai Mori management Koper


The fifth stage of the 2022 Lead World Cup was won on Saturday evening at Koper in Slovenia by home athlete Luka Potocar and Ai Mori from Japan. For both athletes this is their first victory in the Senior Lead World Cup

It was one giant party. The fifth stage of the Lead World Cup took place last weekend in Slovenia, not at Kranj as for the last 25 years, but at Koper on the brand-new climbing wall situated a stone’s throw from the scenic Adriatic sea.

The expectation to see the best in the world battle it out up the longest routes this season and, above all, to cheer on Janja Garnbret, was huge. The Slovenian, winner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the undisputed leader this season after victories at Innsbruck, Villars, Chamonix and Briançon, was finally competing in front of her home crowd: over 10,000 tickets has been distributed for the two-day comp and Slovenian flags could be seen flying everywhere across the bumper crowd.

The sunny Friday morning Qualifiers were followed in the evening by a women’s Semifinal that in many respects could already have been a perfect final. Janja Garnbret climbed regally and completed the only top of the evening, followed by 18-year-old Ai Mori from Japan who failed to stick the final hold. In the men’s field four other Japanese athletes qualified for the last round, demonstrating the incredible depth of talent that Team Japan can choose from, not only in Boulder but also in Lead, to the detriment of big names such as Alexander Megos, the first excluded from the final.

The wait  ended at 8.00pm on Saturday evening with the start of the men’s final and with the first athlete, Japan’s Yoshida Satone, who immediately demonstrated the intensity set by the route setters headed by expert chief route-setter Adam Pustelnik. Satone fell on the 17th hold, his teammate Ogata Yoshiyuki on the 22nd, while Homma Taisei stopped at the leap three holds higher. After 24 intense moves, this leap proved to be too physical and required too much coordination even for Olympic champion Alberto Ginés López. Sascha Lehmann was the first to breach this crux and he swiftly added five more holds before giving in to gravity, and his performance was photocopied by thehome athlete Luka Potocar who, thanks to countback, suddently found himself in provisional first place. Only Yannick Flohé and Ao Yurikusa could still do better. But Flohé – gold at the Boulder World Cup at Brixen a few months ago – perhaps spent too much energy skipping a hold on the traverse at half-height and fell off immediately after the dyno to claim bronze. While Yurikusa, last out, became the third victim of that difficult mid-height coordination dyno. So Slovenia had a new hero, 20-year-old Luka Potocar, 2nd at the recent European Championships in Munich, 4th at Chamonix, 4th at Innsbruck and now, for the first very time, on top of the podium in front of an ecstatic crowd. Could things be better than this?

Better than this is almost impossible. Yet the crowd was obviously rooting for a double Slovenian victory, for Janja Garnbret to continue her unbeatable run this season. Although the 23-year-old has won pratically everything there is to win in recent years, on various occasion in the past she has asked for more testting routes. On Saturday, her wish was fulfilled, ironically at her expense seeing that she, the last athlete out, fell off hold 27+. Yes, this was considerably higher than the tricky boulder problem crux that had stopped many athletes, but nevertheless the crowd was still incredulous because just a few minutes earlier Ai Mori had climbed much higher, all the way up to hold 30. The Japanese had climbed with the same supreme class that in 2019 had garnered her the bronze medal at the Lead World Championship in Hachioji; since then she has not taken past in any World Cups, and it’s clear that that her return to the international circuit could cause a significant reshuffle. So: victory for Mori, silver for Garnbret. And bronze for Brooke Raboutou who, as reliable as every, won her sixth medal this season thanks to climbing one hold higher than Chaehyun Seo. Jessica Pilz, Mia Krampl and Natalia Grossman unfortunately all fell from the dyno while Hélène Janicot, after three years leave, celebrated her return to competitions with an amazing 8th place. As amazing as the entire competition, and indeed the new venue at Koper which promises plenty of giant parties for many years to come.

1 Ai Mori JPN 30+
2 Janja Garnbret SLO 27+
3 Brooke Raboutou USA 23+
4 Chaehyun Seo KOR 22
5 Jessica Pilz AUT 21+
6 Mia Krampl SLO 21+
7 Natalia Grossman USA 21+
8 Hélène Janicot FRA 16+
9 Molly Thompson-Smith GBR
10 Vita Lukan SLO
11 Stasa Gejo SRB
12 Hannah Meul GER
13 Natsuki Tanii JPN
14 Futaba Ito JPN
15 Ryu Nakagawa JPN
16 Lucka Rakovec SLO
17 Laura Rogora ITA
18 Katja Debevec SLO
19 Mattea Pötzi AUT
20 Lana Skusek SLO
21 Alannah Yip CAN
22 Manon Hily FRA
23 Eliska Adamovska CZE
24 Rebeka Kamin SLO
25 Lynn Van Der Meer NED
26 Camille Pouget FRA
27 Claudia Ghisolfi ITA
28 Kyra Condie USA
29 Risa Ota JPN
30 Camilla Moroni ITA
31 Miu Kakizaki JPN
32 Roxana Wienand GER
33 Sandra Lettner AUT
34 Valeri Kremer ISR
35 Chloe Caulier BEL
35 Tjasa Slemensek SLO
37 Michelle Hulliger SUI
37 Noa Shiran ISR
39 Olivia Ma USA
40 Anne-Sophie Koller SUI
41 Käthe Atkins GER
42 Quinn Mason USA
43 Martina Demmel GER
44 Ilaria Scolaris ITA
45 Jennifer Wood GBR
46 Julia Fiser AUT
47 Thea Cameron GBR
48 Tereza Siruckova CZE
49 Joanna Neame GBR
50 Milica Marjanovic SRB
51 Bianca Magalhaes De Castro BRA
Rebecca Frangos CAN

1 Luka Potocar SLO 30+
2 Sascha Lehmann SUI 30+
3 Yannick Flohé GER 29+
4 Ao Yurikusa JPN 25+
5 Alberto Ginés López ESP 25+
6 Taisei Homma JPN 25+
7 Yoshiyuki Ogata JPN 22+
8 Satone Yoshida JPN 17+
9 Alexander Megos GER
10 Hamish Mcarthur GBR
11 Masahiro Higuchi JPN
12 Sebastian Halenke GER
13 Jules Marchaland FRA
14 Marcello Bombardi ITA
15 Dohyun Lee KOR
16 James Pope GBR
17 Nicolas Collin BEL
18 Martin Bergant SLO
19 Stefan Scherz AUT
20 Domen Skofic SLO
21 Martin Stranik CZE
22 Louis Gundolf AUT
23 Filip Schenk ITA
24 Oscar Baudrand CAN
25 Zan Lovenjak Sudar SLO
26 Giovanni Placci ITA
27 Milan Preskar SLO
27 Hidemasa Nishida JPN
27 Nathaniel Coleman USA
30 Michael Piccolruaz ITA
31 Gregor Vezonik SLO
32 Jesse Grupper USA
33 Johannes Hofherr AUT
34 Georg Parma AUT
34 William Ridal GBR
36 Anze Peharc SLO
36 Mikel Asier Linacisoro Molina ESP
36 Simon Potucek CZE
39 Alex Waterhouse GBR
40 Matic Kotar SLO
40 Samuel Butterworth GBR
42 Mathias Posch AUT
43 Cheung-Chi Shoji Chan HKG
44 Chi-Fung Au HKG
45 Diego Fourbet FRA
46 Nino Grünenfelder SUI
47 Victor Baudrand CAN
48 Philipp Martin GER
49 Benjamin Hanna USA
50 Dimitri Flick SUI
51 Igor Veselic SRB
52 Stepan Potucek CZE
52 Till Von Bothmer GER
52 Santiago De Alba Flores MEX
55 Tomas Plevko SVK
56 Arsène Duval FRA

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