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Akiyo Noguchi and Tomoa Narasaki win titles at inaugural sport climbing Combined Japan Cup

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Climbing stars Akiyo Noguchi and Tomoa Narasaki captured the women’s and men’s titles at the inaugural Combined Japan Cup at Iwate Prefectural Sports Park on Sunday.

Narasaki won two of the three disciplines, edging his younger brother Meichi Narasaki, to win the men’s competition, while veteran Noguchi was consistent in finishing in the top three in each discipline to claim the women’s title.

With sport climbing making its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, the Japan Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Association staged the Combined Japan Cup for the first time, with athletes looking to accumulate points over the three disciplines of speed climbing, bouldering and lead climbing.

As will be the case in Olympic sport climbing, scores are determined by multiplying the athlete’s finishing positions in each of the three disciplines. The lowest score wins.

Noguchi finished third, first and second in speed climbing, bouldering and lead climbing, respectively, racking up six points overall for the victory.

Because of the scoring format, Noguchi said that she needed to take first place in at least one of the three disciplines.

“It would’ve been better to take bouldering and lead climbing,” said the 29-year-old veteran, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in bouldering. “But I did better in speed climbing than I expected I would.”

Sixteen-year-old Futaba Ito, a Morioka native who practices speed climbing at the local park (there are few venues for the discipline in the country), was not able to capitalize on home-field advantage, finishing as runner-up. She ended the qualification round first and finished first in speed climbing in the final.

Natsuki Tanii, a 14-year-old junior high school student from Nara Prefecture, won the lead climbing segment and was third overall.

Narasaki clocked 6.87 seconds in the speed climbing, breaking his own national record that he set during qualification on Saturday, to take first place in the first discipline of the finals. But he unexpectedly finished fourth in bouldering, allowing Meichi, who won in bouldering, to move ahead. Tomoa eventually overtook his sibling with another first-place finish in lead climbing.

“I knew that he was going to perform well in a combined event,” the 22-year-old Tomoa said, when asked if he was surprised to compete with his brother for the title. “But I didn’t expect him to do this well. But it was fun.”

The 19-year-old Meichi won the combined title at last year’s world youth championship.

Tomoa is the men’s combined World Cup champion in 2017 and has topped the men’s bouldering list this year.