The marathon Youth World Championships in Arco ended with a special edition of its famous Rock Master. A single event involving the best 8 + 8 athletes in the climbing competition circuit. The competition couldn’t have been anything other than the Lead Duel.

Adam Ondra at the Rock Master 2015 (c) Giulio Malfer / Planetmountain.com
Adam Ondra at the Rock Master 2015 (c) Giulio Malfer / Planetmountain.com

The clash, one against the other, up difficult, parallel and identical routes, invented here in Arco as a „special discipline“ for the best 4 male and female  Rock Master finalists. Over the years this Duel has transformed into one of the most exciting and spectacular challenges in this Arco Master, so much so that in 2011, during the senior World Championship, it was the Duel that decided who won the Rock Master that year. The formula is simple: win the heat and qualify to the next round; be the first to hit the button at the end of the piste, i.e. at the top. This formula continues all the way down to the  „small final“ for third and fourth place and then the grand finale for the Rock Master 2015 title. It is certainly one of the most exciting challenges in sport climbing. And unsurprisingly the Climbing Stadium was filled to the brim (read completely sold out).

The first act, seeing that this year there were no previous Rock Master results, was the seeding round to decide who – just like in tennis – would compete against who. The fastest in these qualifiers would race against the slowest, and so on. This race against the clock was won by France’s Gautier Supper who would battle against Ramon Julien Puigblanque who had finished 8th.

Domen Skofic (2nd) vs Francesco Vettorata (7th). Adam Ondra (3rd) would challenge Stefano Ghisolfi (6th). While Sean McColl (4th) would be up against Jakob Schubert (5th). The female seeding was ‘won’ by Helene Janicot who would take on Jenny Lavarda (8th), Jessica Pilz (2nd) would test her skill against Mina Markovic (7th), while 3rd fastest Mathilde Becerra would Duel against Dinara Fakhritdinov (6th) and Jain Kim (4th) would take on Anak Verhoeven (5th).

Video: Rock Master 2015 – Duel Final: Adam Ondra vs Sean Mccoll

After this „warm-up“ heat the real Duel started. Things began in earnest. In the first round Gautier Supper eliminated  super-champion Ramon Julien Puigblanque. The second match went like clockwork: Jakob Schubert and Sean McColl shot upwards at breakneck speed, equal and parallel all the way to the roof. Then McColl stepped on the accelerator and, dancing and pirouetting through the large wave, got the better of Schubert. A beautiful, fantastic fight. Domen Skofic on the other hand received a green light almost from the outset: Francesco Vettorata didn’t control his speed properly and fell; the Italian was out of the comp. The same held true for Adam Ondra who won because Stefano Ghisolfi fell.

In the women’s event Helene Janicot eliminated Jenny Lavarda. Anak Verhoeven got the better of reigning World Champion Jain Kim while Mina Markovic eliminated Jessica Pilz due to… a fall. In the last pre-quarter final Dinara Fakhritdinov fell early, resulting in Mathilde Becerra qualifying to the next round with minimal effort.

Hélène Janicot at the Rock Master 2015 (c) Giulio Malfer / Planetmountain.com
Hélène Janicot at the Rock Master 2015 (c) Giulio Malfer / Planetmountain.com

There was no time to stop and think: the time had come for the female Semifinal. Helene Janicot qualified for this round by beating, after a thrilling head-to-head with Anak Verhoeven (recently crowned Juniors World Champion who, it’s worth underlining, had just taken part in 9 competition days on the trot). Nevertheless the Belgian she still had the chance to win a medal in the small final for 3rd and 4th place. The other finalist, in the running therefore for Rock Master victory, was Mathilde Becerra who beat Mina Markovic with a 3 second margin.

In the first male Semfinal Gautier Supper failed to keep up with unleashed Sean McColl and the Frenchman „bowed out“ due to a fall. But it was the second challenge for the final that really got the crowd going. Adam Ondra and Domen Skofic produced one of those battles that won’t be forgotten quickly: neither left the slightest room for the other to take the lead, they sped upwards full steam ahead, but no one managed to steer clear. Until, towards the end, Ondra pulled out all the stops in the large roof and won by a two second margin. This is what the Duel is all about!

Video: Rock Master 2015 – Duel Final: Mathilde Becerra vs Hélène Janicot

Next up was the battle for 4th and 3rd place. Anak Verhoeven vs Mina Markovic, as if to say the future vs who (like Markovic) has already won the Rock Master. But this evening the Slovenian had no say in the matter, Verhoeven steered clear to celebrate a great day: the 19-year-old Juniors World Champion and had also just won Rock Master bronze. Then, in the men’s battle for 3rd and 4th, Gautier Supper sped to victory and beat Domen Skofic by a 5 second margin.

The time had come for the final round. The one which would decide the 29th Rock Master. The women began, with Helene Janicot who failed to steer clear of tenacious Mathilde Becerra. But then, below the roof and with the top in sight, Janicot manage to take the lead. It was she who won the Rock Master 2015, while Mathilde Becerra placed second.

Now came the moment everyone was waiting for, the battle between Adam Ondra and Sean McColl. At the starting gun the race literally exploded. Ondra and McColl, at the speed of light, didn’t want to give even an inch away as they raced upwards, one hold after the next, perfectly matched. McColl then took a tiny lead, but Ondra simply didn’t want to lose. He sprinted even faster and caught up with the Canadian. Then, below the roof, Ondra’s last crazy burst towards the top. McColl, with a final sprint, was right up there with the Czech but… the Canadian didn’t stop the clock. And so, with this truly beautiful and exciting final race, Adam Ondra, with the fastest race time (1’10) won – after 2011 – his second Rock Master title!