janja garnbret
Janja Garnbret digs deep in the women's Boulder final, Aug. 14 in Munich, Germany; (photo/Marco Kost for Getty Images)

Garnbret, Ondra Scratch and Claw to Win Euro Climbing Championships

It’s day 5 of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) European Championships in Munich, Germany, and sparks flew yesterday as Adam Ondra and Janja Garnbret claimed tough victories.

No athlete has stood out more strongly in women’s competition climbing than Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret. Adam Ondra holds a similar death grip on the undisputed title of the world’s best sport climber.

But on Sunday in Munich, both climbers almost fell from their respective graces. Garnbret topped just two of the four problems in the women’s boulder final to eke out a win over Germany’s own Hannah Meul. Meanwhile, Ondra clawed his way to a men’s Lead victory on a route that none of the eight finalists managed to solve.

Climbers compete in the IFSC sanctioned World Cup events, ca. 2022
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Women’s Boulder Final

Coming off a women’s Lead victory on Saturday, Garnbret started slowly in the women’s Boulder final. The Slovenian’s reputation for topping out nearly every boulder she touches in competition climbing fizzled early, as she settled for a zone on the first of four problems. Meul and France’s Oriane Bertone followed up her effort by topping it out — and burying her in the standings.

 

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However, Garnbret would quickly charge back to the top of the pack. None of the finalists except Fanny Gibert (FRA) even tagged a zone on boulder two until Garnbret walked up to it and flashed it.

She backed up that effort by flashing the third boulder. Meul kept the pressure on by carding a flash on boulder three, but ultimately it wouldn’t be enough to take down the perennial champ. Garnbret took a zone on the fourth boulder to earn the victory.

“Today was tough,” said Garnbret after the win. “I started off pretty badly with the first boulder, not doing it, but I didn’t panic. I just said to myself, ‘Look, you have three boulders in front of you; anything can happen,’ and I continued to have fun.”

Meul climbed as the clear crowd favorite all afternoon and took silver, and Bertone finished out the podium.

“I enjoyed every minute on the wall and on the mats, in front of that huge crowd,” Meul said. “It’s super exciting to call myself a European silver medallist. It’s crazy. It sounds amazing, and it hasn’t hit home yet.”

Men’s Lead Final

After Garnbret and company cleared out, the crowd in Munich turned its attention to the mega-steep sport wall for the men’s lead competition. There, Ondra waited with hometown favorite Alexander Megos and Austrian crusher Jakob Schubert against the backdrop of the historic Königsplatz square.

2021 World Lead champion Schubert came into the finals hot, scoring a 46+ in the semis earlier on Saturday. No one would come close to scoring that high on a finals route that proved highly demanding.

 

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Slovenian climber Luka Potočar was the first to make any real noise on the steep rig. Shaking out perpendicular to the ground on hold 24, he used his free hand to solicit psych from the sold-out crowd below, which obliged. The boost launched him toward a 37+ score and first place.

But the world’s best sport climber lurked below. Ondra said he channeled inspiration by concentrating on his wife, Eva, and 3-month-old son Hugo before pulling onto the route. Once he did, he reached the 37+ mark 1 minute and 4 seconds faster than Potočar to claim the win.

 

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He indicated later that the win took him by surprise.

“Right before climbing in the final, I was thinking about my son and my wife, and I think it gave me like the ultimate power boost just before I started,” he said. Asked whether he was confident he’d win gold heading into the final, Ondra laughed and shook his head.

“After two days of competition [Boulder and Lead], I still hadn’t recovered because I was destroyed, I was broken,” he said. “The semi-final was a true massacre. I just felt every muscle in my body was aching. But in the final, I saw a route I really liked, and I just went for it with no fear. And after that, I didn’t make any mistakes, so I am very, very happy.”

Potočar took silver, and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion Alberto Ginés López (Spain) completed the podium.

“It was amazing, unforgettable,” Potočar said later. “The climbing maybe wasn’t my best, but I’m happy with it. “[Ondra was] amazing; he’s always amazing. Nothing is hard for him, and he was just cruising up there.”

Today is speed-climbing day at the IFSC European Championships, and combined competitions Wednesday and Thursday will follow a break in the action on Tuesday. Catch all the action live on the IFSC website.

Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.