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Clash of the Titans: Legends Only 2018

Alex Megos dominates at La Sportiva Legends Only 2018.

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Alexey Rubtsov. Photo: Björn Pohl.

On Saturday, six of the world’s strongest male climbers from across the globe gathered in Stockholm, Sweden to duke it out in the eighth rendition of La Sportiva’s invitation-only redpoint boulder competition. Legends Only alternates between male and female climbers annually. This year’s installment featured a roster with powerhouse male climbers like Rei Sugimoto and Jernej Kruder, as well as the German wunderkind Alex Megos and the longtime American superstar Chris Sharma. The six competitors competed to redpoint four problems, having practiced them a few days prior, and then worked to onsight a fifth surprise problem.

First out was Japan’s Rei Sugimoto, the gold medalist from this year’s Vail World Cup and overall third place in the IFSC Bouldering World Cup season. Sugimoto barn-doored hard off the opening lateral dyno of Problem 1, as did Sharma, who followed him. The Russian climber Alexey Rubtsov, who finished fourth overall in 2018’s IFSC Bouldering World Cup, easily stuck the opening dyno and the following one, cruising up through crimps to score a top on his first attempt.

The reigning champion of Legends Only, the lanky Jongwon Chon of Korea, completed the opening moves to the bonus, but got stuck on a deadpoint. After three failed attempts, he managed to pull up and battle to the top, blowing air kisses to the crowd as he walked off the mats.

Watch the full replay of the competition here!

Megos followed, and also swung off on the initial dyno. He eventually managed a top on his third and final attempt. All smiles as usual, the swaggering Slovenian Jernej Kruder, IFSC’s 2018 Bouldering World Cup champion, blitzed his way through the back-to-back dynos without pause, sticking the bonus and swinging out one-handed to face a roaring crowd. Despite this strong start, Kruder fell from crimps near the top. In an interview post-problem, Kruder explained his blitzkrieg style. “[The other climbers] are pretty strong, I chose the easier way,” he said, laughing.

Problem 2, which opened with a dyno to a pair of compression holds on an overhang, saw the shirts come off, but only Megos and Kruder scored tops, bringing Megos into first place.

Alex Megos. Photo: Björn Pohl.

The routesetter described Problem 3 as “one that would test the climbers’ technical abilities a little bit more,” and commentator Liam Lonsdale reported that in practice the climbers had deemed it the hardest problem. Still, Megos, Chon and Sugimoto all managed tops, putting Megos firmly in first place. Asked by the commentator what it would mean for him to win, Megos, who had placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at  past Legends Only comps, noted, “To be honest, I think they’ll just keep inviting me if I don’t win. So, considering that the crowd is so awesome, it’s a win-win situation.”

Chris Sharma. Photo: Björn Pohl.

Megos went on to easily top Problem 4, a series of overhung triangular volumes, on his first attempt, along with Chon, Kruder, Sugimoto and Rubtsov. This clinched Megos first place, despite one problem still remaining. Chris Sharma, at 37 a decade older than most of the other competitors (Chon was barely a year old when Sharma took silver in the 1997 Lead World Championships), unfortunately still sat in sixth place without a single top following Problem 4.

Dotted with massive semi-circular volumes, the fifth and final problem was the only one the climbers had not had the opportunity to preview beforehand. Each had four minutes to attempt it, and could remain on the wall if time ran out mid-attempt. This problem also required a full top out, unlike the previous four.

Despite several all-out attempts, Sharma didn’t manage a top on Problem 5 either. Asked by Lonsdale about a potential return to comp climbing, Sharma was noncommittal. “I’m just psyched to keep climbing,” he said. “You’ve got to keep mixing it up, keep trying new things. It’s cool to be back doing something like this, after a lot of years.” Rubtsov, Sugimoto, Kruder, and Jongwon followed, each managing to top out. Megos also easily topped Problem 5, making the German the only climber to complete all the problems.

For the first time at Legends Only, the crowd voted for a favorite, and although it originally appeared Chris Sharma was voted second place, a roaring crowd prompted by Rubtsov led to the American receiving the People’s Choice Award for 2018.

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