Naturally this wasn't the case. This climb was a slow but sure massacre, one step at a time it devoured clarity and strength and one by one all the athletes fell, when the journey to the top was still a long one. This is what happened to Valeriy Kryukov from the Ukraine, Thomas Tauporn from Germany and also Flavio Crespi from Italy who showed that he is returning to fighting form after his long absence due to injury. Tomás Mrazek, the champion and warrior of a thousand battles, fell lower than expected, too. Frenchman Romain Desgranges and Slovenian Kleman Becan suffered a similar fate and fell at the same height. Unlike Swissman Cédric Lachat who geared up for one of his usual unexpected performances, climbing almost as high as Verhoeven. This was something that (unstoppable) Austrian Jakob Schubert almost managed to do, too.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan and by now everyone was waiting for the usual trio, but then David Lama took to the stage and hit like a bomb. The 19 year old Austrian ace was overwhelming right from move one. He climbed like a missile and found a way to "rest" at half height, jamming his shoulder against the wall and facing out to the crowd just below the big roof. He then shot upwards and his climb got the crowd to their feet Another rest, wedged tight on the move between the two walls, and off he went once again, the crowd giving him a standing ovation when he finally returned back to the ground. Majestic!
Now it was time for the grand final. The one with the top three men and women alternating turns to come into the arena in their quest for gold. But the pressure in a competition like the Rock Master is always ready to play a leading role. This resulted in Charlotte Durif falling there, low down, on that terrible traverse. Adam Ondra then began his devastating, lightening fast climb: in the wink of an eye he flew past all the moves. Watching him climb was spectacular, but just when he seemed predestined for the top he fell, right where Lachat did. Now it was up to Ja-In Kim to show her worth and, judging by how easily she climbed through the crux, it seemed that she was destined to reach the sky. But things turned out otherwise: the Korean ground to a halt beneath the massive wave, significantly lower than both Eiter and Markovic.
Practically everything was the opposite now of what had been predicted. And so when Usobiaga set off no one could believe their eyes: the World Champion climbed the first few moves, slipped and fell. Like Durif he missed the train to victory. Things were incredible enough at that but then something happened to Johanna Ernst which is quite simply unthinkable: the World Champion fell after a couple of holds, there where no one had even hesitated. She too lost all her chances of victory and, like Usobiaga, tumbled to 7th overall. Which meant that gold went to Eiter, separated from Markovic by the slightest of margins.
When the last man out, Puigblanque, set off, no one knew what to think and expect. Apart from the man himself; with his usual lightness he dynoed and flew from hold to hold. His was a dance comprised of power and elegance and the ovation pushed him high, almost to the chain at the end of the route. The crowd then went wild and proclaimed him winner, king of Arco once again.
This is how the 23rd Rock Master came to an end With Charlotte Durif and Cédric Lachat in 4th place, Ja-In Kim and Adam Ondra in 3rd, Mina Markovic and David Lama in 2nd. Angela Eiter and Ramon Julien Puigblanque won and thanks to this victory the two top the Hall of Fame. Their emotions and joy must be immense, just like that of Leonardo Di Marino and Donato Lella, the route setters of this magnificent competition. They risked it, took their chances with these difficult routes and in the end were proved right: the comp couldn't have been more beautiful.
But the marathon Rock Master still hadn't come to an end, there was still the Ennio Lattisi Duel and the spectacle only drew to a close late in the afternoon. In this classic and exciting head to head reserved for the top four, Lachat qualified for the final by beating Puigblanque, whilst Ondra beat Lama. In the small final Puigblanque made the sprint of his life to beat Lama, only just. But the most exciting sprint was the duel for gold where, after a prodigious comeback, Ondra gave away a fraction of a section to Lachat, who clinched victory. In the women's duel Kim beat Eiter in the final, after Markovic won bronze by beating Durif.
All of this happened at the Rock Master in a competition which surely ranks as one of the most beautiful, exciting, unpredictable and incredible ever to be seen here at Arco. All of this was seen, experienced and applauded by the 10000 spectators who flocked to the legendary Climbing Stadium wall. They were something quite spectacular in a spectacular show which next year promises to be truly unique: the special Rock Master will take place from 16 to 17 July 2010 as a final dress rehearsal for the IFSC Climbing World Championship which Arco will host in 2011. The city of Arco continues to be the centre of world sport climbing!