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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Central Saanich, BC (ISN) – The best speed climbers in the country did their best Spiderman and Spiderwoman imitations last Saturday, as they competed in the 2016 Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) National Speed Climbing Championships at The Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich.

Robert Stewart-Patterson (left) and Tristen Gosselin (right) head up the wall during a semi-final race at the 2016 Canadian Speed Climbing Championships (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

On tap to be an Olympic sport in 2020, sport climbing is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the world and is comprised of three disciplines: bouldering – freehold climbing on routes and walls usually 10 metres high or less; lead – ascending a much higher, complex route of holds and obstacles with the goal of getting as high as possible, or reaching the top of the route; and speed – where climbers ascend a 15-metre high, internationally certified route of holds in the shortest time possible.

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Competitors head up the 15-metre high internationally sanctioned speed climbing wall during the 2016 Canadian National Speed Climbing Championships at The Boulders (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Speed climbing is often the most exciting and entertaining discipline of the three (with apologies to boulderers and lead climbers) and the official world record in the sport is 5.6 seconds, while the unofficial world record is 5.578 seconds and is held by Czech climber Libor Hroza, who trains at The Boulders and was part of Saturday’s competition.

Yes you read that correctly. Less than six seconds to climb a 15-metre high vertical wall, with obstacles in the way no less. Some people, including this author, can’t even run 15-metres on the ground in that amount of time.

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Kjartan Einarsson (left) and Elan Jonas-McRae (right) do their best to speed up the wall during a practice run on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Saturday’s competition, while lacking a bit in registration numbers as a result of being held this year as a stand-alone competition (speed and lead have usually been combined in a single national championship event with climbers from both disciplines crossing over to register in both), did feature some of the top athletes in the sport from Canada and across the world.

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Abbott McGregor (left) and Paul Liam (right) begin a qualifying heat Saturday. McGregor would eventually win Gold in the Junior Male division (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

This included the aformetioned Hroza, second-ranked in the world, as well as the brother and sister duo of Alison and Robert Stewart-Patterson, who are the Canadian woman’s and men’s record holders respectively.

Also cometing were Iran’s Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh, the 2015 Canadian Nationals Female Open winner, 2015 Junior and Open National Champion Tristen Gosselin, 2015 Youth B Champions Ryan O’Neil (boys) and Sonja Johanson (girls) and 2015 Youth C boy’s champion Brennan Doyle.

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Iran’s Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh, the 2015 Open Champion, gets set for one of her qualifying runs at the 2016 Championships Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

One other competitor of note Saturday was Youth C competitor Lauren Larbalestier, who because of the low number of registrants, was the lone competitor in the girls’ division of Youth C. This meant that Lauren, who was climbing on the 15-metre wall for the first time in her short competitive career, took centre stage to begin the competition and with all eyes on her, simply had to complete all of her qualifying and final climbs without false starting and without falling off the wall, to capture the gold.

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The always smiling Lauren Larbalestier was a true champion, competing against just herself, the wall and the clock on Saturday to win Gold in the Youth C Female division (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

With the crowd and her fellow climbers cheering her on, Lauren completed all of her climbs, one after the other, with a five-minute break between each, without incident, all the while smiling from ear-to-ear to secure the gold medal and provide an early inspirational highlight of the event.

In the other age groups, it was business as usual and the favourites heading into the event held their own and emerged as event and Canadian champions.

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2015 Youth B Champion Sonja Johanson heads up the wall during a qualifying run Saturday. Johanson would finish with a silver in Youth A this season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In the Women’s Open division, this included Alison Stewart-Patterson, who successfully defended her 2015 title, defeating Iran’s Esmaeilzadeh in the event final and finishing ahead of Quebec’s Maggy Dube-Laroche, the 2015 Youth A Champion, who takes home a national silver in the Open division in 2016 and by virtue of her finish, 2016 Gold in the Junior Female division. Stewart-Patterson would finish with a best time of 11.45 seconds in her semi-final race Saturday, well short of her Canadian record of 10.83 seconds.

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Alison Stewart-Patterson would defend her National title and claim gold again in the Open Female division at Saturday’s Nationals (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

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Quebec’s Maggy Dube Laroche would climb her way to Gold in the Junior Female division, Silver in the Open Female Division and Bronze in the Event Open Female Division at Saturday’s event (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It was similar story for Hroza, who took home the event Gold by defeating Robert Stewart-Patterson in the Men’s Open final. No world records for Hroza at the event this year, but his time of 6.08 seconds in the final was easily the fastest time up the wall by any competitior on Saturday.

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While there would be no new world record for him Saturday, Czech climber Libor Hroza won the Men’s Open Event title with a best time of 6.08 seconds (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Stewart-Patterson, with his second place finish to Hroza in the event final, takes home the 2016 Men’s Open National gold medal and his time of 6.63 seconds in the final, matched his personal best and the Canadian men’s record in the event.

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Canadian record holder Robert Stewart-Patterson found himself back on the podium this season, winning Gold in the Men’s Open division and silver in the Event Open division, matching his Canadian record time of 6.63 seconds in the process (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Other athletes crowned National Champions on Saturday included Abbot McGregor (Junior Male), Teyha Rogers (Youth A Female), Noah Bratschi (USA) (Event Champion in Youth A Male) Kjartan Einarsson (Canadian Champion Youth A Male), Aleda Toronitz (Youth B Female), Aiden Doyle (Youth B Male) and Brennan Doyle (Youth C Male).

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Brothers Aiden Doyle (left) and Brennan Doyle (right) took home gold in the Youth B and Youth C Male categories respectively (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

All Canadian champions depending on their age classification, now qualify to compete at the World Championships in Paris in September and the World Youth Championships in China in November.

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Aleda Toronitz focuses prior to one of her qualifying runs Saturday. Toronitz would win Gold in the Youth B Female division (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

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Teyha Rogers (foreground) heads up the wall during a qualifying run against Maggy Dune Laroche. Rogers would take Gold in the Youth A Female division (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

A full list of all medalists is found below

2016 CEC National Speed Climbing Championships
April 9, 2016, The Boulders Climbing Gym, Central Saanich, BC

Canadian Champions

Youth C Female – Lauren Larbalestier (Gold)
Youth C Male – Brennan Doyle (Gold), Emile Levesque (Silver)

Youth B Female – Aleda Toronitz (Gold), Manon Mackasey (Silver)
Youth B Male – Aiden Doyle (Gold), Alexander White (Silver)

Youth A Female – Teyha Rogers (Gold), Sonja Johanson (Silver), Kari Jurick (Bronze)
Youth A Male – Kjartan Einarsson (Gold), Ryan O’Neil (Silver), Liam Paul (Bronze)

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Kjartan Einarsson starts up the wall during qualifying Saturday. Einarsson would win Event Silver and Canadian Gold in Youth A Male and and Canadian Bronze in Open Male at Saturday’s event (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Junior Female – Maggy Dube Laroche (Gold), Amy Spetter (Silver)
Junior Male – Abbott McGregor (Gold), Isiah Desjarlais (Silver)

Open Female – Alison Stewart-Patterson (Gold), Maggy Dube Laroche (Silver), Christy Spurrell (Bronze)
Open Male – Robert Stewart-Patterson (Gold), Tristen Gosselin (Silver), Kjartan Einarsson (Bronze)


Open Female – Alison Stewart-Patterson (CAN) (Gold), Farnaz Esmaeilzadeh (IRA)(Silver) Maggy Dube Laroche (CAN) (Bronze)
Open Male – Libor Hroza (CZE)(Gold), Robert Stewart-Patterson (CAN)(Silver), Tristen Gosselin (CAN)(Bronze)

Youth A Male – Noah Bratschi (USA (Gold), Kjartan Einarsson(CAN) (Silver), Ryan O’Neil (CAN)(Bronze)