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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

May 16, 2015, Central Saanich, BC (ISN) – In front of a large crowd of climbers and non-climbers alike, China’s Qixin Zhong and Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina were the respective victors for the men and women at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Speed World Cup that was held Sunday afternoon at The Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich.

China’s Qixin Zhong celebrates his gold medal climb at the IFSC Speed World Cup that was held Sunday at The Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The event marked the first time the Speed World Cup has been held outside Europe or Asia and given how things went, it likely will not be the last, as The Boulders proved a fantastic venue for such an event.

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Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina waves to the crowd after winning gold at the IFSC Speed World Cup that was held Sunday at The Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich. Earlier Kaplina would establish a new women’s world record of 7.74 seconds (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Just in case you have not been exposed to the sport of speed climbing, it involves climbing up an internationally approved 15-metre high near-vertical wall, navigating a series of hand and footholds, in the shortest period of time possible. The best in the world commonly do this in less than 7 seconds and heading into Sunday, the official world records are 5.60 seconds for men and 7.85 seconds for women.

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Polish climber Patrycja Chudziak (foreground) and France’s Anouck Jaubert (background) head up the wall during a qualifying heat on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Excitement for the event had been building over the past two weeks, given that one of the world’s top speed climbers, Libor Hroza of the Czech Republic, now lives in Victoria and trains at The Boulders. Hroza broke the world speed record time (5.60 seconds) in April at the Sport Climbing Association of British Columbia (SCBC) Provincials, but because that was not a sanctioned IFSC event, his time of 5.578 seconds could only be considered unofficial and many were expecting him to officially break the record Sunday at the World Cup.

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Czech climber Libor Hroza would qualify first with this climb of 5.83 seconds, but would fall off the wall in his eight-finals match up to be eliminated from contention (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Unfortunately that was not to be. After blazing up the wall with the day’s best qualifying time of 5.83 seconds, Hroza would slip and fall off the wall in his quarter-final elimination run against Canada’s Sean McColl and be eliminated from further contention.

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China’s Qixin Zhong heads up the wall during one of his speed climbs Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That opened the door for Zhong, as well as Polish climber Marcin Dzienski, the eventual silver medalist and Bassa Mawem, the bronze medalist. Zhong, who qualified for the final 16 with a time of 6.37, third behind Hroza and Mawem, would defeat Canada’s Tristen Gosselin in the eighth-finals and Russia’s Aleksandr Shilov in the quarter-finals, before upsetting Mawem in the semis to get to the gold medal race. He would save his best for last, posting a time of 6.26 seconds in the final to defeat Dzienski for the gold.

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While France’s Bassa Mawem had his eyes set on gold, he would have to settle for a bronze at the IFSC Central Saanich Speed World Cup Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Eight Canadian male climbers participated in the Central Saanich Speed World Cup, including Kiefer Van Den Bosch, Jake Forsyth, Magnus Einarsson, Aaron DiLallo, Francis Bilodeau and Tristen Gosselin, who were all making their World Cup debuts, as well as McColl and Canadian record holder Robert Stewart-Patterson.

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In an extremely close men’s semi-final Poland’s Marcin Dzienski (right) would out-touch Russia’s Arsenii Shevchenko by just 0.10 of a second(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

McColl would finish the highest of all Canadians in 7th, setting a new personal best time of 8.11 in qualifying, with Gosselin in 11th and Bilodeau in 12th. Stewart-Patterson, who would finish in 15th, would tie his Canadian men’s record of 6.66 seconds in his qualifying run.

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Canadian climber Sean McColl (left) congratulates Russian Arsenii Shevchenko after their quarter-final climb Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Also of note on the men’s side was U.S. climber John Brosler, who in his first World Cup appearance, finished in a respectable 8th place, setting a new U.S. men’s record of 6.54 seconds in the process.

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U.S. climber John Brosler would set a new American men’s record with a qualifying time of 6.54 seconds in his eighth-final run (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On the women’s side, Russia’s Kaplina, the existing women’s world record holder, made it look easy, qualifying in first with a time of 7.90 seconds and then cruising through her eighth-final and quarter-final runs before coming up against teammate Anna Tsyganova in the semis, where all she did was post a new women’s world record time of 7.74 seconds to advance to the gold medal race.

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Russia’s Iuliia Kaplina begins her climb up the wall during one of her qualifying heats on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In that race, she would face another teammate, Mariia Krasavina, who barely made it into the finals after she defeated France’s Anouck Jaubert by just 0.03 seconds in the semi-finals. Krasavina could not do the same against Kaplina, who took home the gold, winning the final race by a margin of 0.89 seconds.

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Poland’s Aleksandra Rudzinska readies herself for a climb (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Russia would complete the podium sweep on the women’s side when Tsyganova would defeat Jaubert for the bronze.

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Iran’s Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh uses one last bit of mental preparation, as she is roped in prior to one of her climbs Sunday. She would finish in 7th place (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Four Canadian climbers would participate on the women’s side including Evelyna Trottier, Maggy Dube-Laroche, Elena Moss and Alison Stewart-Patterson, all of whom were making their World Cup debuts.

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Evelyna Trottier (foreground) and Elena Moss (background) were just two of ten Canadian climbers (both male and female) participating at the IFSC Speed World Cup (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Stewart-Patterson would be the top finisher in 13th place and on the bright side, would establish a new women’s Canadian record in doing so, when she qualified with a time of 10.83 seconds. That knocked 0.71 seconds off her previous mark of 11.54 seconds.

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Canada’s Alison Stewart-Patterson s all smiles after she established a new Canadian women’s speed climbing record of 10.83 seconds (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Climbing continues at The Boulders on holiday Monday as the Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) Nationals take back the stage. Finals in lead climbing begin at 9:15 am with finals in speed going at 12:30 pm. Awards for both begin at 3:00 pm.

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The IFSC Central Saanich Speed World Cup podium (L to R): Mariia Krasavina (RUS), Marcin Dzienski (POL), Qixin Zhong (CHI), Iuliia Kaplina (RUS), Bassa Mawem (FRA) and Anna Tsyganova (RUS) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

See more images from the IFSC Speed World Cup and the CEC Nationals on Christian J. Stewart’s web site at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/p156935093