Olympic champion Janja Garnbret strikes double gold at European Sport Climbing Championships

Czech climbing legend Adam Ondra ascends to gold in the men’s Lead final, adding to his bronze in the Boulder discipline. Polish trio sweeps women’s Speed event. Later this week, the first combined Lead and Boulder event at a major competition, ahead of its debut at Paris 2024, will be contested at the championships in downtown Munich

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Janja Garnbret wins gold in the Boulder event. Munich (GER), 14 August 2022_ Women's Boulder Final during the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER).   © Dimitris Tosidis _ IFSC.
Janja Garnbret wins gold in the Boulder event. Munich (GER), 14 August 2022_ Women's Boulder Final during the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER). © Dimitris Tosidis _ IFSC.

Slovenian Janja Garnbret remains the undisputed queen the women’s sport climbing world having taken consecutive gold medals in the Lead and Boulder events at the European Championships. Meanwhile, Polish women dominated the women’s Speed event, sweeping the medals.

Garnbret, the first Olympic female gold medalist in sport climbing, added two career European titles to her vast accomplishments, dazzling in front of a jam-packed crowd at the Königsplatz in Munich, Germany, this past weekend.

In Sunday’s Boulder event, the 22-year-old Slovenian displayed resilience, overcame a slow start and flashed two of four problems to attain her second gold medal in as many days at Munich 2022. The victories were her first two at a European Championships.

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

Garnbret recently said about winning gold last summer in Tokyo: “This was the hardest competition in my life.” It seems likely the immensely talented Slovenian sensation will be pushing boundaries in her sport for years to come.

Spurred on by the home crowd, Germany’s Hannah Meul won silver, while France’s Oriane Bertone took bronze.

Munich (GER),  14 August 2022_ The women's Boulder podium for the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER).   © Jan Virt _ IFSC.
Munich (GER), 14 August 2022_ The women's Boulder podium for the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER). © Jan Virt _ IFSC.

On the men’s side, Czech Adam Ondra, who is even more revered for his epic big mountain ascents than his sport climbing talents, ascended to gold in the men’s Lead final. He defended his 2019 European title, while adding to his bronze in the Boulder event from the previous day.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Alberto Gines Lopez sped up the wall en route to a bronze medal with a score of 35+ and an ascent time of 3:31, compared to Ondra’s 37+ and fastest 3:01 time. Luka Potocar of Slovenia took silver

Ondra, 29, recently became a new father in what has been a milestone summer for the Czech climber.

“My son Hugo was born three months ago and right before climbing in the final, I was thinking about my son and my wife,” Ondra said, after his victory. “I think it gave me the ultimate boost before I even started.

“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 that every muscle in my body was aching.

“But in the final, I saw a route I really liked and I just went for it without fear. And after that, I didn’t make any mistakes, so I’m very happy.”

Czech star Adam Ondra competes at Munich (GER), 14 August 2022_ Men's Lead Final during the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER).   © Dimitris Tosidis _ IFSC.
Czech star Adam Ondra competes at Munich (GER), 14 August 2022_ Men's Lead Final during the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER). © Dimitris Tosidis _ IFSC.

The Slovenian 20-year-old runner-up Potocar commended Ondra, who is an icon in the sport, both in the climbing gym and on epic, trailblazing first ascents outside.

“He’s amazing – he’s always amazing,” Potocar said. “Nothing is hard for him and he was just cruising up there.”

Polish female climbers conquered the German wall, while sweeping the medals in the women’s Speed event on Monday. Aleksandra Miroslaw, 28, out-dueled her younger countrywoman Aleksandra Kalucka, 20, to take top honors. Kalucka’s twin sister Natalia defeated Patryca Chudziak, 28, to complete the country’s astonishing sweep of the medals.

In the men’s Speed competition, Ukrainian Danyil Boldyrev delivered an inspiring performance to win gold for his country. The 30-year-old athlete defeated Marcin Dzienkski in the final at the energetic central Munich sports venue.

Munich (GER), 14  August 2022_ Men's Lead semi-final during the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER).   © Dimitris Tosidis _ IFSC.
Munich (GER), 14 August 2022_ Men's Lead semi-final during the 2022 European Championships in Munich (GER). © Dimitris Tosidis _ IFSC.

After a rest day on Tuesday, the women return to the climbing wall on Wednesday chasing the first-ever combined Boulder and Lead medals at a major championship. The men will have the same opportunity on Thursday as the European championships draw to a close.

Considering the single event Olympic competition at Tokyo 2020, many sport climbers expressed strong opinions and lobbied hard, while receiving acknowledgement and support from International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) president Marco Scolaris, that the Speed discipline should be contested entirely independent from Lead and Boulder. While the event may be compelling and fan friendly, most contend that it doesn’t represent the true heritage of the sport.

That is exactly what happen at Paris 2024, as two sets of medals (Speed, Boulder + Lead) will be up for grabs for both men and women for the first time in the sport’s Olympic journey.

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