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The pair's absence cast a “What if…” pall over the victories of Buhrfeind and Bailey—which isn’t fair to anyone.
But simply put, everyone wants to watch crowns be defended—and the fact that Shiraishi and Lightner couldn’t compete was a bummer.
Sean Bailey was a captivating question mark going into this event.
Like Buhrfeind, he is also a young competitor (21) with a lot of international competition experience. We know he's good, but would he be in top form after a year away? Bailey came back rejuvenated and smoother than ever.
Then Amanda Wooten narrowly grabbed the lead with a 9.41 second run.
In her second attempt, Kelly wowed the crowd with a 9-flat.
Next she'll head to Innsbruck, Austria, to train for the upcoming IFSC World Cup and it'll be exciting to see what threat she poses to international rivals.
Beyond that, Kiersch gets props for giving spectators the most exciting moment of the comp: Shortly after nailing the “slam dunk” dyno on the headwall—and controlling the swing to a big pop from the crowd—she got stymied while attempting to match the route’s top hold.
The drama was palpable; since several previous competitors—Brooke Raboutou, Margo Hayes, and Alex Puccio—had already topped the route, Kiersch would only stand on the podium if she could match the hold.
She made several attempts, catching herself and then readjusted after each miss.
Buhrfeind's first run had been a bust, so it all came down to her second attempt—could she beat Kelly to snag the championship?
In the end, Buhrfeind cruised up the wall to a blistering 8.86 (mere moments after having claimed victory in the Sport discipline).