TOKYO (Reuters) - Italy’s Gabriele Moroni claimed his first ever International Federation of Speed Climbing (IFSC) World Cup bouldering gold medal on Sunday, edging home favourite and reigning speed climbing combined World Cup winner Tomoa Narasaki into second.
Japan were victorious in the women’s event, with four-times World Cup winner Akiyo Noguchi leaving it late to beat compatriot Miho Nonaka to victory, leap-frogging her in the overall rankings.
The event took place in Hachioji as neighbouring Tokyo gears up to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in two years’ time, featuring all three climbing disciplines of speed, lead and bouldering.
Bouldering was the only one to feature on Sunday.
The sport, in which climbers scale a fixed route on the wall, hoping to reach the top or at least secure a ‘zone’ designation by reaching a certain point on the wall in the allotted time, can often go down to the final moments and so it proved on Sunday.
With another Japanese Rei Sugimoto secure of third place in the men’s final, there was drama as Narasaki and then Moroni took on the final challenge.
Narasaki produced his best climb of the day, his first top in a tough final, to move ahead of Moroni, only for the Italian to respond with his second top of the final to secure victory.
Moroni, a 30-year-old who said he had taken some time away from the sport, partly because he believed he might never win a World Cup title, was ecstatic with his debut win.
“I still can’t believe it. It is crazy,” said the Italian.
“I have been waiting for this moment forever, probably all my career, my competition career. It has happened but I am still not realising what I did.”
Narasaki’s second-place finish was enough to move him into first place in the overall rankings, ahead of Slovenia’s Jernei Kruder.
In the women’s event Nonaka held the lead going into Noguchi’s last climb of the day. The 29-year-old Noguchi had to secure a top on her first attempt to take the victory and the great champion showed all her experience to do just that.
“Competing with Nonaka makes me very happy. It is great to have such a competition in the last round. We have a great competition between us,” said Noguchi.
Russian Ekaterina Kipriianova finished third, her first podium finish.
“I cannot describe my feelings. I am just so happy. It is my first podium and I have been competing for 10 years, maybe a little bit less, in World Cups. “I waited so long for this.”
The IFSC World Cup continues in Vail, Colorado, on Friday.
Editing by Clare Fallon