Three Austrian athletes are in the semifinals at the first Lead World Cup of the season.

Jessica Pilz (ÖAV Haag) in the women's category as well as Jakob Schubert (ÖAV Innsbruck) and Stefan Scherz (NFÖ Neunkirchen) each made it to the top-26 at the IFSC Climbing World Cup Innsbruck 2022. The semifinals already follow on Saturday evening (7 p.m., live on ORF Sport+).

The largest field of starters ever at a Lead World Cup went into the Lead Qualification on Friday morning. 211 athletes (92 women and 119 men) tried their luck on a total of eight routes - due to the large field, women and men had to be divided into two groups with two routes each.

In the men's competition, Jakob Schubert continued where he left off last year: at the top of the field. The three-time lead world champion scored top on one route and 43+ on the other, thus winning his qualifying group. "A good start to the day, but in the semifinals it will be crisper. I know I'm in good shape in lead even without much training, usually good shape in bouldering means good shape for lead climbing as well. This was the first confirmation of that," said the 31-year-old local hero. "I stick to it: I can't afford any mistakes at the moment, then it can be over quickly. If I stay focused and show my performance, I have a good chance of a good placing."

With Stefan Scherz, another KVÖ athlete made it to the semifinals in the men's event. The 20-year-old from Lower Austria took eleventh place in his qualifying group with 32+ and 23+. "I'm really happy to be further along. After the first route - I was the first starter - I thought it would be rather difficult. But it was a very difficult place and there were a lot of athletes out in the same position - that then gave me the confidence for the second qualifying route. In the end it was a big tremor, but now I'm looking forward to the semifinals and a great atmosphere in the evening. My goal is a top-15 place, with that in mind I will compete in the evening," said Scherz, happy about his first lead semifinal at the home World Cup. 

Pilz with two tops

In the women's competition, Jessica Pilz was once again the best Austrian. The 25-year-old from Lower Austria was the only athlete in her qualifying group to get the top on both routes and moved into the semifinals as the winner of her group. "The exhausting bouldering of the last days is in my bones, but I was able to fight well. In the lead I feel very comfortable, I noticed that again in the qualifier. In the semifinals the cards will be reshuffled, but I'm ready for another fight."

Sandra Lettner (PES Vöcklabruck) and Mattea Pötzi (PES Villach) were unlucky, finishing 14th and 15th respectively in their qualifying groups, just missing out on the semifinals by a hair's breadth. "Even if the 27th place was bitter in the end and the advancement to the semifinals just missed, I am very satisfied. After a messed up bouldering competition it was not so easy for me mentally. I have not trained so much lead climbing so far, so I am positively surprised. I have to be honest, my forearms have never hurt so much at the end of a competition - but it was a great and motivating feeling," Lettner summed up after an intense day's work.

The international top stars around Olympic champion Janja Garnbrent (SLO), who is celebrating her comeback in Innsbruck after a break of several months, bouldering winner Natalia Grossman (USA) or Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA) all reached the semifinals with ease. This will take place on Saturday evening from 7 p.m. (live on ORF Sport+), admission is free. The finals of the best eight will follow on Sunday from 7 p.m. (live on ORF Sport+).

IFSC Climbing World Cup + European Cup Innsbruck 2022