3rd place for Toby at the Salt Lake City boulder World Cup, 2023

The 3rd World Cup of the season took place in Salt Lake City from the 19th to the 21st May, 2023. It was a memorable one for Toby coming 3rd:

On the male side there were a total of 64 athletes, a slightly smaller field than the previous World Cups. There were some big names missing – such as Mejdi Schalk (FRA) who won the first 2 World Cups of the season – however there were also notable big names such as the eventual winner Tomoa Narasaki.

Toby on coming 3rd

To win a medal at my 3rd Boulder World Cup feels unbelievable – it has been an amazing week.

I felt like I learnt a lot in Hachioji and Seoul and I was hoping to improve on those performances – I definitely felt like I did that.

Tomoa Narasaki is someone I’ve followed for years – I remember watching him win a World Cup on TV at home when I was about 12. To stand next to him on the podium was surreal. He was also really nice and so supportive – discussing beta and saying well done, etc.

I’ve been told about becoming the first Brit to win both Lead and Boulder World Cup medals and that it’s likely I now have enough points for the Olympic Qualifier Series (OQS). To qualify for the Olympics is definitely a huge goal of mine…

I’ve worked really really hard to make this happen and this just makes me want to work harder.

The crowd in Salt Lake City were incredible and they made it a special final for the competitors – it felt amazing on the mats to be cheered on like that.

Now I already can’t wait for Prague…

Toby Roberts

Salt Lake City

The host city has been a regular on the circuit for many years – and as a first time visitor it did not disappoint. The city itself is at high altitude (1300m) and surrounded by snow capped mountains. There was blistering heat during the competition with temps touching on 95F at times; it was hot.

2 excellent commercial climbing gyms provided a very contrasting feel in the days preceeding the competition – and whilst waiting for semis for those who didn’t make it through. The Boulder Project a dedicated – and trendy – bouldering facility; whilst Momentum Climbing gyms provided both lead and routes. Both gyms had made a great effort to make sure there were some hard World Cup style boulders on the wall which was definitely appreciated by the visiting climbers.

The ‘TC’

However, it was ‘The TC’ (Training Centre) that operated as the home gym for most of the World Cup competitors.

Home to USA Climbing, there is an excellent spray wall and an array of angles with comp style problems. Whilst the wall space, hold selection and setting were all excellent – it was the hosts that really made the TC and the SLC World Cup feel special.

Huge thanks must go to USA Climbing, Josh Larson (USA Head Coach) and the USA athletes for their hospitality.

The ‘TC’ was definitely a relaxed place to train and hang out and also doubled as isolation for the comp itself with regular shuttles for the competitors to be delivered on time to the venue for their rounds.

Many World Cup athletes will judge a venue based on the warm up and isolation facilities – and it’s safe to say that Salt Lake City rates as one of the highest.

The Venue

This years iteration of the World Cup was homed in Pioneer Park with a roof befitting of all weather conditions (there would be no repeat of the ‘rain stops play’ scenario as in Seoul).

Whilst the competitors were treated to shade from the blistering heat; many were searching for very limited shade.

The venue, organisation and staff were excellent and the event itself ran perfectly.

Male Qualifications

After finishing 25th in Hachioji and 8th in Seoul, Toby was slowly bumping himself up the starting order and with a World Ranking of 37th before the comp would now climb in 12th position in his group – this time group B.

Boulder MB1 was done by most as a dynamic coordination move to opposing gastons. Toby opted for a more powerful but slightly more simple roll over move with the right hand. Both methods worked first time for most.

The top was also climbed by most as a dead point to a positive finish hold. Not knowing how good the finish hold was, Toby found some high feet beta and was able to match the very bottom of the finishing hold to flash for a positive start.

Boulder MB2 was an altogether more awkward affair with a series of bad volumes and slopers. The key to unlocking the boulder was body position and fitting your body inside the problem. Many were able to work there way through the problem with 10 flashes – including Toby.

Boulder MB3 was set as a campus paddle dyno starting off a double toe-hook. It looked straight-forward to read and for some climbed that way – although also had the potential to be costly for both skin and attempts. Toby managed to bump to the second paddle with the toe-hook in place, then skin the 3rd paddle and generate momentum to land on the zone with a high foot. A straight-forward top made it 3 flashes.

Boulder MB4 was arguably the 2nd hardest boulder of the round judged on number of tops. It was physically harder to reach the zone, with a difficult move to the second last hold. There were a variety of methods utilised – including a launch off a low foot or high feet above the out-of-bounds tape that was blocking the low arête.

Toby utilised some intuitive clockwork feet and once his feet were high it was an easy top to make it 4 flashes.

Boulder MB5, was a very different problem – a hard mantle with no feet and poor texture. It saw the fewest tops in the round (5) that impressively included both the Levin brothers; Geva & Ram (ISR) alongside Tomoa Narasaki (JPN), Ao Yurikusa (JPN) and Toby. Most mantles follow a seemingly simple formula – press until the body is high enough to get the feet up.

This mantle was no different – it was hard to get one foot up, and then once you did it was hard to get the other up. After getting both up you needed to fully stand up without losing balance to match the finish.

Many of the early spectators missed Tomoa’s top on MB5 and by the time Toby made his way to the top there was generous applause from the growing crowd.

5 tops in 7 attempts was comfortably enough for semi-finals; finishing 2nd in group B and joint 3rd overall. Based on Toby’s improving World Ranking he would climb 3rd last in semi-finals (with the climbing order for different qualifying groups determined by World Ranking).

It was undoubtedly a high-scoring round with 4 tops 5 zones in low attempts required for semi-finals.

Due to ties, 22 men would move on to the semi-finals.

Watch Toby’s Qualification Videos on Instagram:

Semi Finals

With the women’s semi-final and final on the Saturday, there was a rest day for the men before their turn on Sunday. With a high qualifying place and guaranteed that the difficulty would increase for semi finals, the pressure was on to secure a final place.

Boulder 1 was a press to get established followed by a right moving run across some Rockcity volumes – with quick feet required to catch the positive zone hold. It was both flash-able and had the potential to burn attempts. The finish move was a dynamic pop to a left hand that would only stick if finding the blind right heel hook at the same time. Toby executed well to start the round with the flash.

Boulder 2 was a level up power wise and whilst the zone was within reach, there were very few people able to get established on the zone and make progress on the route. Slowly the moves started to come into range with Colin Duffy (USA) one of the first to push a hand out left seemingly making some progress. Toby also made great progress on the boulder – managing to sink underneath the zone – however he couldn’t progress into the upper section. A flash to the zone was valuable however.

The only top of the round was by Sorato Anruku (JPN) who flashed the boulder in style – an incredible effort that alerted anyone who wasn’t already aware of his immense talent. Sorato was already Youth World Champion from Voronezh in 2021 and again in 2022 in Dallas where Toby and Sorato fought it out in the finals with Toby coming a narrow second on countback.

Boulder 3 was almost a mirror of Boulder 2 – an incredibly physical boulder in which Toby made the most progress other than Sorato who again was the only top when impressively flashing. Toby again flashed the zone.

Boulder 4 was all that stood between Toby and his first World Cup Boulder final. The way the scores evolved meant that any top would be enough to make it through, and anything but a top would leave Toby agonisingly short.

The Boulder itself was an awkward slab with a drop down move off the zone that was awkward to spot. On Toby’s 3rd attempt he found himself sticking the drop down move and now need to build his feet and height to pop to the finish.

Having built his feet, there were several false moves as time started ticking away. With 1 minutes 30 seconds left there might have been time for another go… still in the same position with 45 seconds left and it was now all or nothing.

Toby set himself several times assessing all his options as he did. He finally made his move and his time assessing the options was well spent – executing the top section to arrive at the finish hold and book his place in his first World Cup Boulder final.

The resulting cheers from the GB coaches and athletes, and the generous Salt Lake City crowd conveyed that he’d done enough and the smiles arrived on cue.

‘Go To Finals’

The literal translation of many a Japanese Climbers Instagram post will result in a matter-of-fact statement. ‘Go To Finals’ is now synonymous with many a climber who is on their way to finals.

The time in-between semi-finals and finals is a mixture of jubilation, recovery and preparation. There is the inevitable excitement and processing of semi-finals; assessing skin, eating, checking results and catching up with team mates. This then morphs into preparation and heading back to isolation.

There is undoubtedly a relaxed more ‘party’ atmosphere for those in finals isolation – for many whatever the outcome the comp would have been a good one and they would have climbed all 13 boulders the setters had to offer.

Whether experienced or a first time finalist like Toby – making a World Cup final is a special moment for any climber.

For Toby it was now a case of ‘Go To Finals’.

Finals, Team, Podium & History

Having made finals, every climber is also hell bent on trying to secure a medal. Naturally everyone dreams of gold and standing on top of the podium – but also there is a big difference between 3rd – and leaving with a medal – and 4th.

As with the previous rounds, the generous SLC crowd turned up ready to cheer all the athletes up the boulders – although naturally none more than home favourite Sean Bailey (USA) in a home final.

Boulder 1 was a very awkward slab that was hard to get established on with terrible Rockcity volumes. Moving across to the zone was very tricky and it was important to do so leaving enough time for the tricky top.

Toby managed the zone, but with a foot slipping when lining up for the finish hold he had to settle for a zone. With 4 tops on the boulder he was in 5th place after Boulder 1 with impressive tops from Tomoa Narasaki (JPN), Sorato Anraku (JPN), Daiki Sanyo (JPN) and Sean Bailey (USA).

Boulder 2 was a tricky dyno that was a 2 handed catch where momentum needed stopping by planting a foot back on the wall on the in-swing. Toby progressed with each attempt, sticking the move on his 4th go. The top was relatively straight-forward and was flashed by the 5 climbers who stuck the first move. Only Sean Bailey (USA) didn’t manage the jump which bumped Toby up to 4th by virtue of his additional zone.

Boulder 3 was a tricky stand up move that unlocked the zone which was managed by all 6 finalists. This unlocked the delicate moves going right across some terrible volumes. A very poor right hand meant it was possible to stand up very slowly in direction of the final hold. The problem was topped by 4 climbers including Toby.

This meant that going into the final boulder Toby was in 4th and both Toby and Daiki Sano (JPN) had 2 tops and 3 zones – although Daiki was in 3rd by virute of few attempts taken.

Boulder 4 was a powerful crimpy boulder – essentially a much more traditional climbing style which was appreciated by the climbers and crowd. The boulder was flashed by Hannes Van Duysen (BEL), but it was not to be for Daiki Sano (JPN) who couldn’t top the boulder.

This left the door open for Toby to reach the podium. Any top of Boulder 4 would guarantee a podium finish.

The style was perfect for Toby with some time well spend on Malham limestone – crimps would hopefully not be a problem. Competitiors in the final are able to see the scores and Toby knew that a top would secure a podium.

Toby set for the dynamic move to the left-hand crimp and hit the hold perfectly, killing his momentum by planting the left foot and securing the zone. The top section of the boulder involved firing to another crimp at which point the boulder was all over with an easy move to the finishing hold giving the competitors the chance to thank the crowd.

As Toby made the move to the final hold he won his first World Cup Boulder medal with what would turn out to be a Bronze medal behind the eventual winner – Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) and Sorato Anraku (JPN) with silver.

In doing so, Toby became the first British climber to win World Cup Medals in both Lead and Boulder and Toby’s 2 medals in each discipline have arrived in just 5 World Cups (2 lead, 3 boulder).

As an added bonus, it became almost mathmatically guaranteed that Toby has qualified for the Olympic Qualifying Series (OQS) meaning his focus can change to enjoying and gaining experience at the remaining World Cups before focusing on the World Championships in August.

Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) is a climber Toby has followed extensively and Sorato Anraku (JPN) and Toby have battled together at the Youth World Championships in Dallas last year. Toby mentioned ‘It was an absolute privilege to stand on the podium with Tomoa and great to be up there with Sorato too with him winning his first World Cup medal – hopefully it’s the first of many

The memories of the Salt Lake City Boulder World Cup 2023 will last a life-time!

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