After a near 6 month hiatus since the last IFSC World Cup in Morioka, Japan back in October 2022, it was back to Japan for the start of the 2023 Boulder World Cup season in Hachioji, Tokyo being followed only a week later with the second event in Seoul, South Korea.
The first World Cup of the 2023 season also signals the start of the Paris 2024 Olympic qualifying process and there is no doubt that the ranking points on offer will be on the minds of athletes and coaches through the season.
All athletes were keen to get started after a winter of heavy training and there were 94 entrants on the mens side in a stacked competition.
Teams from Great Britain, Japan, France, Germany, USA, Austria, Israel and Spain to name a few descended to sample the infamous B-Pump ‘Black Tape’ boulders as well as prepare for the season opening weekend on a ‘semi-final’ equivalent round of boulders that had been set on the B-Pump competition wall.
In reality, few climbers would be trying anything as hard as a ‘black tape’ boulder, and the ‘light green’ and ‘brown’ tape boulders are still coveted tops for any visiting climber.
There is no doubt that the level of setting plays a huge role in the development of a countries climbers, and B-Pump was a great example.
The problems on offer were physically several levels above anything Toby has trained on and without doubt reflected a very physical outdoor style of bouldering, alongside many other climbs that had complex comp style movements.
After a few days acclimatising and training in Tokyo based out of the Shinjuku area, it was time to head across Tokyo to Hachioji.
Hachioji Boulder World Cup
For Toby the Hachioji World Cup was also his first senior Boulder World Cup event and gaining ‘experience’ was his main aim for the competition having previously only competed in 2 Lead World Cups (Braincon, 18th & Ratho, 3rd) and a dedicated Combined event (Morioka, 13th).
Athletes competed in 2 groups (A & B) with 47 athletes in each group, and with athletes competing in order of World Ranking it was almost a 4 hour wait in isolation for Toby to climb.
Boulder 1 was a relatively straight-forward start to the round and a boulder that Toby – alongside many others – was able to flash.
Boulder 2 was a trickier slab, and after 3 attempts making some steady progress on each attempt Toby found himself matching the only positive hold on the boulder to secure his 2nd top of the round.
Boulder 3 looked to be a slightly more powerful boulder, but after a winter of hard training for everyone it was also a little on the easy side and Toby alongside a number of athletes managed to flash for his 3rd top.
Boulder 4 was a sequence of hard pinches that only saw 3 tops early in the round, and a zone hold that became progressively worse with a combination of chalk and rubber.
Toby was able to secure the zone on his first attempt, but certainly felt like any further progress was near impossible by this point and he couldn’t join Yannick Flohe (GER), Yoshiyuki Ogata (JPN) or Tomoa Tomoaki (JPN) who successfully topped the boulder from his group.
By this point, it was looking like 4 tops would be required to progress to the semi-final round in Group A, so all was to play for on boulder 5.
Boulder 5 had a dynamic start to a guppy hold, followed by a paddle dyno. After some steady progress working through the first move, Toby arrived at the zone but time was starting to run low as he worked the top moves. One last attempt wasn’t quite enough to see him land the dyno…
Toby finished qualifications with 3 tops and 5 zones in 25th place. ‘Experience’ is a significant word at World Cup level and as well as Toby gaining valuable experience, it was also clear to see many of those with the experience being able to dig out the tops which mattered.
Nothing is ever won in qualifications, but it is essential to learn how to navigate them successfully to continute deeper in the subsequent rounds.
The remainder of the competition was spent cheering on Jim Pope (GBR) who put in a strong performance to make semi-finals with a strong start to his campaign.
The eventual podium included 2 athletes only a year older than Toby who he has competed alongside for many years in Mejdi Schalk (FRA) who took gold and Hannes Van Duysen (BEL) who claimed his first senior medal with Silver, and Paul Jenft (FRA) completed the podium with a bronze medal for a European clean sweep.
I know how hard I’ve worked over the winter to be physically ready for this season.
I felt in great shape on the boulders and I would have loved to test myself as the level went up in semi-finals.
I’m not disappointed with 3 tops and 5 zones, but I defininitely feel like a 4th top was within reach.
Even though the experience is essential, you don’t really want to believe that; you want to top boulders and make it through to semi-finals and finals.
It’s only the first event of the season though and I’m really glad there is another event next week in Seoul.
Hopefully I can put the experience to good use and improve on this result in Seoul.Toby Roberts