Kokoro Fujii won the men’s bouldering world championship on Sunday, finishing ahead of compatriot and defending champion Tomoa Narasaki in the six-man final in Moscow.

Fujii was the only climber to overcome the first problem in the final as he made it over all four boulders. Narasaki, the world champion in 2016 and 2019, made it past three.

“I feel unbelievable,” Fujii said after winning his maiden world title. “I can’t believe it. It’s a dream.”

Fujii secured the fourth straight victory in the event by a Japanese climber, while it was the first time two Japanese shared the podium.

The world title had previously been out of reach for Fujii, who was second overall in bouldering at the 2016 World Cup behind Narasaki.

The 28-year-old was denied a spot at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed a suit by the Japan Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Association over qualification policy confusion by the International Federation of Sport Climbing.

“You can’t know what the nervousness was like if you weren’t there,” Fujii, who became a professional climber this year, has said of the Olympics. “I strongly thought I want to feel it myself in three years’ time.”

For Narasaki, the runner-up finish was a welcome boost after a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Games, where a mistake in the speed component cost him gold in the climbing competition that combined three disciplines.

“Fujii put in an outstanding performance, making a great start toward the Paris Olympics,” Japan head coach Hiroshi Yasui said. “Narasaki also provided a positive start ahead of the new season,”

France’s Manuel Cornu took bronze, while Japan’s Yoshiyuki Ogata and Tomoaki Takata were eliminated in the semis.

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