China has been hosting world-class international Sport Climbing events for years, and the Asia Tour is now a staple in the IFSC World Cup series. Chongqing and Nanjing again host the first stage this year, welcoming multiple season champions for back-to-back Bouldering and Speed events.
In Meiringen, Switzerland, Great Britain’s Shauna Coxsey continued her dominance, topping every finals problem with the poise of a champion and unparalleled execution. She led the way throughout the competition last year at Chongqing, and the signs suggest fans can expect a similar spectacular performance the next two weekends. Miho Nonaka of Japan has also fared well at Chongqing, finishing on the podium the past two seasons, and her explosive power makes her a constant threat. Before casting your predictions, don’t forget Austrian Katharina Saurwein finished second at Meiringen. The veteran competitor has been winning medals for more than a decade, and she proved she is as strong as ever.
Last year, the trajectory of Tomoa Narasaki’s season changed with a victory at Chongqing. Despite missing semi-finals at Meiringen, the reigning season champion from Japan is still a top contender. His teammates Kokoro Fujii, Keita Watabe and Rei Sugimoto all climbed superbly at the first event and will join him for the Asia Tour. Also keep an eye on Aleksei Rubtsov of Russia. Always a formidable force, he climbed with convincing authority at Meiringen and is one of the early favourites for the season podium.
In 2015, Mariia Krasavina and Qixin Zhong reigned as Speed queen and king, and both stars are on the start lists for Chongqing and Nanjing. Zhong medalled twice in his home country last year, and he continues to extend his Speed climbing legacy. Also in the spotlight will be Marcin Dzienski of Poland. Marcin was like lightning in 2016, winning the world title and topping the season rankings. His sights are on the World Games in Wroclaw this year, and these events will be the first window into his shape for 2017. The ever-fast Reza Alipourshenazandifar of Iran, winner at Nanjing, will race alongside them.
So often last year Iuliia Kaplina of Russia and Anouck Jaubert of France finished first and second. Kaplina stood atop the season podium, and Jaubert is currently ranked first in the world Speed rankings. Legendary Russian Speed climber Krasavina could change the order this season. Also be sure to watch world champion Anna Tsyganova, who placed first at the World Winter Games in Sochi and, at her best, can set a record-breaking pace.