Natalia Grossman is now American Climbing Royalty
Salt Lake City, UT (May 24, 2022) — Natalia Grossman’s gold medal performance at this past weekend’s World Cup in Salt Lake City was arguably her most impressive this season. Not only did it feature her topping almost every boulder—the only roadblock coming on the fourth boulder of semi-final round, which no one else topped either—it also entailed her doing it all in front of a home crowd, channeling the applause, soaking in the love from 4,000 fans in attendance, calming the nerves, and ultimately becoming a pillar on which the audience could attach their own hopes and stoke.
Sound familiar? Grossman essentially did the exact same thing last year in Salt Lake City—yes, topping every World Cup boulder except one at the first weekend’s competition, never looking rattled or stymied throughout all rounds of competition, and winning in supreme fashion as the city lights of Salt Lake City punched through the night sky and enveloped the massive crowd and the lofty EntrePrises bouldering walls on the main stage.
However, because Grossman now has a multi-year history of making Salt Lake City her personal theater, we should start looking at her performances in that city and her overall World Cup accomplishments with a wider lens. Grossman now has some serious history in Salt Lake City, which starts to blend into something else: A legacy. The fact is, fans can say that Grossman is synonymous with the Salt Lake City World Cups in a way that few other climbers are with respective city’s events. Even Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, widely considered to be the sport’s GOAT, does not have quite the heritage with her home World Cups that Grossman does. (Garnbret’s record for World Cups in Slovenia is first place in 2021, 13th place in 2019, second place in 2018, first place in 2017, etc.).
If anything, “home field advantage” in World Cups sometimes skews the other way for great climbers. Expectations, nerves, and whatever else can become too hard to compartmentalize and convert to success. The legendary Akiyo Noguchi clenched World Cup gold in her home of Japan in 2009 and 2018—undoubtedly impressive, but not exactly back-to-back. Austria’s Anna Stöhr won World Cup gold in Hall, Austria, in 2008, but earned second place—narrowly missing out on a repeat victory—at the same city the following year. Statistics like that from other competitors make Grossman’s gold accomplishments in Salt Lake City over the past two years even more impressive. It also prompts a deeper dive into the record books.