Arco Rock Legends 2014: The Sport Climbing Oscars

The sport climbing Oscars

These are the words used to describe the Arco Rock Legends, the coveted prize that for the last nine years has been awarded to the best sport climbers in the world during the classic Rock Master Festival, the champion's climbing competition that takes place from 28 August to 7 September in Arco (Garda Trentino, Italy). And just like the film Oscars, at these climbing Oscars there is an exceptional jury composed of a select pool of international climbing magazines and, above all, there are some exceptional candidates who left their mark at the crags and in climbing competitions last season.

Fotostrecke: Arco Rock Legends 2014: Die Nominierten

Fotos: © G. Malfer, B. Gimenez, P. Matros, A. Cherbuy

In fact, for the prize given to sport climbs outdoors – the Salewa Rock Award – there are three superb candidates, namely Alexander Megos from Germany, Adam Ondra from the Czech Republic and Muriel Sarkany from Belgium. As for the prize dedicated to climbing competitions – the La Sportiva Competition Award – the athletes that have been selected by the jury in this initial phase are Sachi Amma from Japan, Urko Carmona Barandiaran from Spain and Dimitri Sharafudtinov from Russia. Three plus three, six super climbers who all made the grade last year.

Salewa Rock Award

This is the unique award that goes to climbers for their single pitch sport climbs or their short and intense boulder problems. Unique because, just like with the famous Ballon d'Or, the candidates are chosen by an international jury composed of the most important specialised magazines. The very same jury that decided to nominate – starting with the fairer sex – Muriel Sarkany.

The Belgian climber best known for her thousand competition victories who, after bidding farewell to the circuit, certainly didn't give up climbing. On the contrary, she upped the ante and in redpointing Punt-X at the Gorges du Loup in France last November she even sent the legendary 9a grade. A historic milestone in her personal climbing curriculum, but also for female climbing that has witnessed precious little 9a's so far. Sarkany struck a cord with this incredible performance and also with her determination and love for climbing that, at 39 years of age, seems to have no limits.

Another love for climbing that seems limitless is that of Adam Ondra. The 21-year-old from the Czech Republic and four-times winner of this award convinced the jury this year thanks to his capacity and drive to climb everything, immediately. This year, in fact, he set a new precedent by onsighting two 9a's (the maximum ever achieved in this style), as well as finding the time and energy to free three 9b's and one new 9b+. The latter happens to be check in as one of the three hardest sport climbs in the world, and it is worth remembering that the other two were first ascended by Ondra, too… an athlete at the very apex of this sport, without ifs, ands or buts.

The third nomination this year – and it could not be otherwise – goes to another young climber, Germany's Alexander Megos. Nominated last year for his amazing world's first 9a onsight, this year Megos' impact on the climbing scene has in some ways been even bigger… a stopwatch has become a new standard, as has a long list of repeats up to 9a+, often in less than two hours. This speed highlights how the 20-year-old is leading us towards a new horizon, hitherto unthinkable. And, in addition to repeating routes at breakneck speed, Megos has also begun to make the first ascent of his own climbs. Beautiful, pretty damn difficult and all lightening fast, obviously.

The only thing that is currently not obvious is who among Sarkany, Ondra and Megos will win the Salewa Rock Award 2014. The jury, which will meet at Arco on 29 August, will have to make some tough decisions!

La Sportiva Competition Award

Selecting a winner from this category, the competitions, has historically never been easy, either. A fleeting glance at the results certainly doesn't suffice because, in addition to the competition results from the various disciplines (Lead, Bouldering and Speed) and various competitions (World Cup, European Championship, etc.), the judges must also consider the style and impact that these athletes have on the entire competition movement.

This is why one of those nominated for this award is Sachi Amma, the ever-smiling Japanese athlete who proved, for the second year in a row, that he's the man to beat when it comes to difficulty competitions. Having said that, he's no slouch in bouldering either, as can be seen from his third place in the Combined ranking that takes into account his results in all disciplines. In short, Amma is an athlete who knows how to express both joy and competitiveness at the very same time.

Spain's Urko Carmona Barandiaran – the second athlete nominated – is ever smiling, too, regardless of the difficulties he has to face. Maybe it's because for this paraclimber the word „obstacle“ simply doesn't exist, as can be seen from his numerous competition victories such as last summer's European Championship, to which one also needs to add last season's World Championship. A true champion, in competitions as in life in general.

The third true champion in this year's nominations is Russia's Dmitri Sharafutdinov, the three-time Boulder World Champion who finally fulfilled his dream last season to win his first ever Bouldering World Cup title. A second place in the European Championship and a fourth place in Combined World Cup (Lead + Boulder) confirms that he is the absolute king of bouldering.

Who will win the Salewa Rock Award and the La Sportiva Competition Award will be unveiled on Friday, August 29th during the awards ceremony at Arco hosted, as every year, by the journalist and keen outdoor enthusiast Kay Rush. She will open the two envelopes and reveal the names of the winners who will join the Arco Rock Legends Hall of Fame. And she will also open the third envelope that contains the name of the winner of the other prestigious award, the Climbing Ambassador by Aquafil prize that will be assigned to a climber who has contributed to the culture of sport climbing worldwide.

Last year the prize was awarded to the Paraclimbing movement and to all Paraclimbers, while in the past those who took the stage were Stefan Glowacz, Maurizio „Manolo“ Zanolla, Luisa Iovane, Lynn Hill, François Legrand and Yuji Hirayama. This year the award goes to Mauro Corona, the Italian writer, sculptor, alpinist and climber and discoverer of the legendary Erto crag that, throughout all these years, has been an important meeting point and testing ground for all of the best climbers the world.

Just like Arco itself, with its stunning crags and unique territory that should be celebrated on a daily basis and, in particular, on Friday, August 29, 2014 when it hosts the IX edition of Arco Rock Legends!