adidas ROCKSTARS 2018
A loaded class of finalists sees two men and two women dominate their way to the Super Finals. Though 10 of the 12 athletes found nothing particularly easy with the routes set for the finals on Saturday evening, the leading four sometimes made it look like child’s play as the flashed their way up boulders. It was a dream list of super finalists and they did not disappoint a capacity crowd at the hoppingly atmospheric Porsche-Arena in Stuttgart, Germany.
As in years past, the 2018 adidas ROCKSTARS bouldering invitational did not disappoint. From start to finish there were storylines and underdogs as well as dominance and hijinx. Men and women all rose to the challenge of difficult routes and world-class opponents and gave the fans a fantastic show.
The crowd packed in to maximum capacity and along with music from DJs ‘Sungod’ and ‘Chainsaw’ as well as a unique musical performance from beatbox star ‘Eklips’ with DJ and drummer created an unforgettable atmosphere that boosted the climbers to one of the best and most fun finals that this event has experienced.
The six men that hit the mats on Saturday evening were all veterans of bouldering and the youngest, Jongwon Chon (KOR) was not lacking in experience. Chon, a two time Bouldering World Cup overall champion and adidas ROCKSTARS fan favorite, earned his way to the finals through a packed crowd of talented men. The first place finisher of the semifinals - with the only perfect score of the round - Keita Watabe (JPN) and Chon were joined in the finals by former ROCKSTARS champ (2013) and 2018 Bouldering World Cup number one, Jernej Kruder (SLO). Three-time World Cup winner, Kokoro Fujii, Tomoaki Takata (JPN) and Sergii Topishko finished out the six finalists.
On the women’s side of the stage, the group was headlined by the 2018 Bouldering World Cup Overall leader, Miho Nonaka (JPN) and two-time adidas ROCKSTARS champ (2012-2017) Alex Puccio (USA). They were joined in the finals by 2016 Bouldering World Champion, Petra Klingler, Ekaterina Kipriianova (RUS), Belgian champion Chloe Caulier and 2017 European Champion, Stasa Gejo (SRB).
The first boulder for the men proved to be toppable as five of the six athletes were able to earn points on the route. Chon came out with his typical charisma and had the crowd eating out of his hand right before flashing the first boulder with no problem. Jeremej Kruder was right there with him though and flashed the wall himself and provided a clear top two after the first section. The only climber not to solve the problem was Sergii Topishko who put himself in a deep hole heading to boulder two.
For the ladies, the dominance of Miho Nonaka and Alex Puccio continued. They each had no trouble with the first boulder and Miho finished just ahead with two attempts to Alex’s three. Not one of the other four female climbers would reach the peak of number one and it pointed to how well the two leaders were performing.
Chon and Kruder showed their metal yet again on boulder two and though it took the Slovenian until the last seconds to solve the puzzle, he came up clutch and the two tops would push him through along with his Korean counterpart to the third boulder. The third to join them was Tomoaki Tanaka who was impressive on boulder one but along with Fujii, Topishko and Watabe was unable to top men’s number two.
Boulder two went much better for the ladies and as Miho and Alex eased their way into advancing to the third route of the finals, the third and final participant wasn’t clear until the very end. Finally, it came down to Stasa Gejo and Ekaterina Kipriianova and it was tight. So tight that tops and attempts would not solve it and the scoring would have to go to bonus points. Fortunately for Ekaterina, she reached three bonus holds compared to her opponents two and that gave her the chance to move on and climb boulder number three.
The men’s third boulder presented an odd issue that, due to Kruder and Chon already having two tops and Takata only one, the Super Final was already set. Each man came out and gave it his best shot but the wonderkid from Korea was the only one to top and yet again was able to show off his fantastic dance moves as he landed on the mat and kissed his “guns” to the delight of the crowd.
Ekaterina couldn’t quite top the third obstacle and bowed out as the proud third place finisher of an awesome lineup of female competitors. Alex and Miho, as the men before them, didn’t have to even touch the wall since they were already qualified as the super finalists. That didn’t stop these two from competing at their best and they each nearly flashed the wall but ended both on top after the second try.
Finally the top four climbers, out of dozens of incredible athletes that poured their hearts and souls out onto the mats, had fought their way to the finish. First up, the women.
The route was one that at first glance appeared to be flashable. Especially considering the quality of the climbers, everyone in the building knew that this could be a quick one. This proved indeed to be the case. It was neck and neck at the start as Alex Puccio got faster to the wall. As they ascended, it appeared that the American was about to speed past her rival but at the key moment Alex fell to the floor and could only look up and watch the amazing Miho Nonaka top the super boulder and become the 2018 adidas ROCKSTAR.
Miho Nonaka was clearly overjoyed after her win and soaked up the win that had just barely evaded her in past Rockstar events:
“I’m so so so happy, I’m finally a Rockstar! I’m so excited to win!”
Here opponent was graceful in defeat and Alex Puccio spoke about the last climb and the entire event:
“It was very special and she is so fast. I went in knowing she was fast but wow…This event is always so fun and the crowd was so awesome!”
Emotions were still high after the women’s Super Final and there was a short break since the wall had to be changed slightly to make it more difficult for the men. The two superstars came out to the thunderous applause of the packed house and again, it seemed likely that this would be a flashed super boulder. Everyone waited with bated breath as the two pros strutted out onto the stage with big smiles.
Since Chong famously fist-bumped his opponent, Tomoa Narasaki in last year’s final, it was in question if he and “Crazy Kruder” would do the same. They in fact, did not. The countdown finished, the two turned towards the crowd, did a nice little jig and “butt bumped” before sprinting to the super boulder. Childishly hilarious antics over, the two hit the wall and on the second and third holds it was Kruder who had the more dynamic moves and though it was close, the Slovenian ended on top first for his second ever adidas ROCKSTARS victory.
The two seemed equally happy and embraced after the Kruder victory. The current Bouldering Overall World Champion was asked immediately afterwards how he felt about the win:
“I feel amazing. Seriously, this is just a cherry on top of the ice cream. After the world cup in Munich my dreams came true and this is just simple enjoyment. Also thank you to the crowd! The atmosphere here is great and in my mind it’s a bit easy going with no expectations so it’s just fun.”
The thre time second placer at the adidas ROCKSTARS, Chon, had a few words for his opponent and for the crowd:
“I am really happy today but only one guy can get to the top. I always enjoy this competition and thanks guys (speaking to the crowd). Hey next year, be ready...I’ll be there.”
The 2018 adidas ROCKSTARS ended as it began, with joy, excitement and camaraderie. The week that began with a women’s only event that produced an eventual semifinals wildcard and ended with two of the best boulderers in the world dancing together after a close win, can now go into the memory banks and the record books as a competition that reconfirmed two climbing stars and left smiles on the faces of all who witnessed it.
Results adidas ROCKSTARS 2018
1. Miho Nonaka (JPN)
2. Alex Puccio (USA)
3. Katerina Kipriianova (RUS)
4. Stasa Gejo (SRB)
5. Petra Klingler (SUI)
6. Chloé Caulier (BEL)
1. Jernej Kruder (SLO)
2. Jongwong Chon (KOR)
3. Tomoaki Takata (JPN)
4. Keita Watabe (JPN)
5. Kokoro Fujii (JPN)
6. Sergii Topishko (UKR)