Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
January 10, 2016, Central Saanich, BC (ISN) – A keen and dedicated group of young climbers had the opportunity of a lifetime last weekend, as they got to learn from many of the world’s best climbing athletes at the 2017 International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Climbing Camp that was held Friday through Sunday at The Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich.
The camp was the second such camp held at The Boulders – the first coming two years ago in January of 2015 – and it featured many of the climbing athletes who will no doubt be representing their countries when sport climbing makes its’ Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020. These included:
Sean McColl (Canada) – From North Vancouver, Sean is the current 3-time Overall World Champion (2009, 2012, 2014), an 8-Time Open Canadian National Champion, a 5-Time World Youth Champion, and has won 5 World Cup events and been on the podium 23 times since he started competing on that circuit.
Anak Verhoven (Belgium) – Current 4-Time Belgium National Champion (Lead, 2013-2016); Second at 2016 World Championships; 2-Time World Cup event winner (both in 2016); 13 World Cup podium finishes (2014-2016); and World Youth Champion (Lead, 2015).
Libor Hroza (Czech Republic) – One of the top 10 (currently ranked 6th) speed climbers in the world; former official record holder (5.76 seconds) and current “unofficial” record holder (5.58 seconds); 2013 and 2015 European Champion (speed); Second at 2012 World Championships; 5-Time World Cup event winner; 24 World Cup podium finishes.
Anouck Jaubert (France) – Currently the number one ranked women speed climber in the IFSC’s overall world ranking; Second at 2016 World Championships and 2013 World Youth Championships; 2015 European Champion (Speed); World Junior Champion (2012); 7-Time World Cup event winner; 13 World Cup podium finishes.
Sebastian Halenke (Germany) – The 7th ranked lead climber in the world, won his first World Cup event in 2016; 3-Time World Youth Champion (2009, 2010, 2012); Second at World Youth Championships 2013; Third at 2015 European Championships and 2014 European Youth Championships.
Iuliia Kaplina (Russia) – Currently the number two ranked women’s speed climber in the IFSC’s overall world ranking and the current women’s record holder with a time of 7.53 seconds; 8-Time World Cup event winner; 19 World Cup podium finishes; Third at 2016 World Championships; Second at 2012 World Championships; Second at 2015 European Championships; European Youth Champion (2012).
Arsenyiy Shevchenko (Russia) – One of Russia’s top speed climbers and currently ranked 24th in the world; frequent World Cup competitor with an event win in 2013 and a podium finish in 2012; European Youth Champion (2009)
Delaney Miller (USA) – One of America’s top climbers, Delaney is a 3-Time US National Champion and is a frequent competitor on the World Cup circuit and she is a 2-Time Pan-American Youth Champion (Lead and Bouldering, 2012, 2014).
Mani Kumar (India) – India’s only paraclimbing world champion, he is considered one of the top-ten climbers overall in the country today; World Para-Climbing Champion (2012); Two-Time Paraclimbing Cup event winner (2015, 2016); Two-Time Paraclimbing Cup silver medalist (2014, 2015).
Also in attendance were international route setters Jan Zbranek (Czech Republic), Kaleb Thomas (Canada) and Calum Forsyth (Scotland), along with IFSC Technical Delegate Graeme Alderson (England).
Opened Friday by Boulders Chair and Canadian National Team Manager Kimanda Jarzebiak, climbers quickly assembled into four teams and began to outline their plans and goals for the weekend and then participate in some team-building activities that included Frisbee football and tug-of-war. American Ninja Warrior competitor McColl and his co team leader Jaubert also put their young charges through some warm-up exercises worthy of inclusion on the Ninja Warrior series that McColl has competed in twice.
Participants then attended a series of seminar talks by the pros that included details about route setting (Zbranek), life as a professional climber (McColl), competition routines (Verhoven), balancing life and training (Halenke) and who’s who at World Cup events (Alderson).
The remainder of the day Friday was then spent in a speed climbing workshop put on by Hroza, Kaplina and Shevchenko before then heading to the main gym for some practice on The Boulder’s 15-metre speed climbing wall.
On Saturday, the mock competitions began, starting with a bouldering competition that took place at The Boulder House in Victoria. Athletes worked their way through a series of five separate and challenging routes or problems, with the goal of completing each short route in the fewest attempts possible. Action then shifted back to The Boulders for the speed competition later that afternoon and evening.
On Sunday, the lead climbers took centre-stage, challenging themselves to climb as high as possible on a number of difficult and challenging routes set by some of the best route setters in the world.
Some of the young climbers participating in the camp may themselves be vying for a spot on that 2020 Olympic team four years from now, so for them, the opportunity to learn and get one-on-one training from the sports’ top athletes was a key focus of the camp.
“For me the biggest lesson this weekend was learning what I need to improve upon and what disciplines I am lacking in,” said Ryan O’Neil, a Victoria climber who set a personal best in speed climbing during the mock competition on Saturday. “For me that is bouldering and the key advice I received this weekend was to work on strength and technique and to be more precise with my movements.”
Zachary Bennett felt the biggest lessons he took from the camp were things not specifically related to climbing technique. “Most surprising to me was our expectations of how easy or hard things were going to be. Even though we are taught not to have any expectations, we still do all the time, so it was good to learn ways that the top climbers have to let go of those expectations and relax prior to a climb.”
“It was also important for me to understand that I need to work on things not specifically related to climbing,” added Bennett. “Things like mindset, breathing, and being more aware of the things we are weak at so that we can better manage our training time to improve on those things.”
For Jarzebiak and The Boulders, the camp represents yet another world level event in a long list of provincial, national and international events that the gym has hosted over the past few years including the 2013 World Youth Championships, the 2013 and 2015 Speed and Lead Nationals, the 2016 National Speed Climbing Championships, the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Sport Climbing BC Provincial Championships, a 2015 IFSC Speed World Cup event and the 2015 International Climbing Camp.
“Camps like these are an incredible opportunity for the best climbers in the world to give back to the community and help younger climbers advance their careers,” said Jarzebiak. “The fact that we can hold this camp here and that Victoria, with its relatively small population, is becoming known as a destination for competitive climbing, is amazing.”