Champions at times move you. Never before has this been closer to the truth. Because Rock Master is always something that needs to be conquered, nothing can ever be taken for granted and nothing can ever be left to chance. Here you have to climb with heart, mind and power. Believe to the bitter end. And this is exactly how Angela Eiter achieved her impossible comeback, scaling up the provisional results to re-win the Rock Master.
Fotostrecke: Rock Master 2009: Galerie Christian Pfanzelt
And it was thanks to his immense power and an unstoppable upwards thrust that Ramon Julian Puigblanque maintained his lead, winning the competition in fantastic style. This is Eiter's fifth Rock Master victory and Puigblanque's fourth. Both now top the Hall of Fame, equalling the records of legendary Lynn Hill and Francois Legrand. This speaks words about how great these two young champions really are!
2009 will be remembered as the Rock Master of surprises. An edition which combined, within the short space of just one morning, great disappointments and even greater emotions which only cutting-edge sport is capable of producing. Angela Eiter was fourth after Saturday's on-sight, behind Charlotte Durif from France, the extraordinary Ja-Jin Kim from Korea and above all behind Johanna Ernst, her 17 year old teammate who last year usurped her throne, winning all there is to win, including the World Championships. Yesterday in fact Ernst had been the only athlete who climbed regally to the top of the route. So who in their right mind would place their bets on Eiter in this second "afterwork" round?
The answer came after the first bunch of athletes had had their say: Caroline Ciavaldini from France, young Alexandra Ladurner from Italy, Alexandra Eyer from Switzerland, Juliane Wurm from Germany and Maja Vidmar from Slovenia. By now the crowd had gathered that the route was complicated right from the start, above all on that traverse right which marked the end of the first section. That traverse was not only difficult, it was also extremely beautiful. Only Ciavaldini interpreted the moves perfectly but she then lacked the strength to continue upwards. The others fared less well, including Vidmar.
At the eve of the competition the Slovenian was a strong contender for victory, but Vidmar fell lower still than Ladurner who celebrated her Arco debut this year. Even if all had battled hard through that traverse, hopes dimmed of seeing what lay in store higher up the wall. But then Angela Eiter stepped into the arena. And right from the outset everyone understood that she had placed all her bets on herself.
Eiter the warrior suffered, pushed herself, took risks and found the key through that truly perverse traverse. Then she launched upwards towards the top and the crowd let loose, free at last. Eiter was pushed upwards by their cheers, she almost broke through the massive wavy roof and used up every ounce of energy that was stored in her body. Her upwards ride was great, immense like the cheers which the Arco crowd granted her. "I'm still here Eiter" seemed to say. "And the injury which kept me away from the comps is practically a thing of the past." Yes, it was touching to be with this champion once again.
No one knew it at the time, but at the end of the day these emotions would be all the greater. After Eiter it was Mina Markovic's turn. It was almost a play-off between them since they had been tied in 4th together with the other Slovenian, Nataljia Gros. Markovic climbed superbly but fell touching the hold which Eiter had managed to hold. Then came the unexpected debacle of Natalija Gros, the third Slovenian in the competition and another victim of that treacherous traverse. It was later still that things happened which no one would ever have dreamed of. Those still to come were Durif, revelation Kim and above all the extraordinary Ernst.
But before they climbed it was time for the men. Their route was long. 60 moves and no one in the crowd could hazard a guess about who could reach the top, if not the eternal rivals Patxi Usobiaga from Spain's Basque country and his Catalonian counterpart Ramòn Julian Puigblanque. They led the field thanks to their tops the day before, but another strong contender was, naturally, Adam Ondra, the terrible youngster who was provisional third thanks to his near miss, by the closest of margins, of the top on Saturday.
Everyone's bets were on these three. Right from the beginning though Jorg Verhoeven climbed extraordinarily high. Yesterday the Dutchman had disappointed everyone: his low fall meant provisional 12th. But today the champion everyone knew seemed to be back on form, the very same one who had won the 2008 World Cup. Or perhaps the route was too simple…