NEWS FLASH: Woonseon Shin (KOR) and HeeYong Park (KOR) are the 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Champions in lead.

72 men and 34 women started the lead competition on the famed ice structure of Champagny-en-Vanoise on Saturday. Only two would walk away from the French Alps with gold medals around their necks. By Sunday afternoon’s Finals, held under a deluge of snow, the field had been whittled down to eight men and eight women.

Slovenia’s Janez Svoljsak was among the eight finalists in the men’s lead competition. Photo: Monica Dalmasso

The men’s finals welcomed athletes from six different countries – Iran, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland and the Ukraine. On a route which demanded moves to be executed with precision and at a relentless speed, Russia’s Alexey Dengin set the standard with an impressive first climb. That was until the fifth athlete on the wall, HeeYong Park, 34, winner of the recent UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season in lead, produced a display of dynamic, deft and dazzling ice climbing. Park was the first athlete to complete the course and with 46 seconds to spare. A marker was laid. Then came Nikolai Kuzovlev (RUS) who, after failing to podium in the speed competition, started like a man possessed. With just the last hold separating him from the top and at a speed faster than Park, a missed undercut proved fatal when he seemed ready to assume leadership of the competition. Only the last athlete to climb – 19-year old Swiss climber Yannick Glatthard – could oust Park from pole position. In a performance which showed great maturity and concentration, Glatthard produced a silver medal display in completing the climb albeit shy of Park’s time. Gold for Park, silver for Glatthard, bronze for Kuzovlev.

Gold Medal Climb: HeeYong Park

The final eight women hailed from five countries – Ireland, Italy, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland. The major turning point in the competition came when Han Na Rai Song (KOR), currently ranked number 1 in the world and fresh from three World Cup gold medals, fell shortly into her climb. Misfortune which opened up an opportunity for the pursuing athletes. Fresh from winning a world title in speed, Maria Tolokonina produced a stunning performance only to fall when about to make her final clip; Italy’s Angelika Rainer with a measured, controlled and technically flawless climb reached the top. Only defending World Champion Woonseon Shin, 36, could now defeat her. Shin had to top the course and in a faster time than Rainer. The tension was palpable. Climbing with confidence and remaining unflustered by the pressure, Shin narrowly finished the route faster than Rainer. Gold was hers and in the process she defended the world title she won two years ago in Rabenstein. An outstanding Rainer claimed silver; Tolokonina bronze, no small feat for an athlete who had spent the morning dominating the women’s speed competition.

Gold Medal Climb: Woonseon Shin

Earlier this morning, 29-year old Russian athletes Pavel Batushev and Tolokonina became ice climbing world champions in speed. Click here for more details.

Men’s Speed Final Duel: Batushev v Kartashev

Women’s Speed Final Duel: Tolokonina v Feoktistova

A full review of the weekend’s action in Champagny will be available tomorrow Monday 6 February.

Further Details

For all results from the 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships click here.

Live coverage was available on the UIAA FacebookYouTube and Twitter channels as well as on the Olympic Channel. Commentary came from Liam Lonsdale.

Pictures from the 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships are available on the UIAA Flickr channel. Images are copyright Monica Dalmasso.