The Toronto World Cup

Gripped - - FEATURE - An­dre Cheuk

The In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Sport Climb­ing’s five-stop World Cup se­ries kicked off in Toronto on May 31. It took place ap­pro­pri­ately enough for the Cana­dian stop at a hockey rink, the Thorn­hill Arena. It was the fourth time the event has taken place in Canada. The first was in Canmore in 2011, and for the past three years, Boul­der­ing Canada or­ga­nized the event in Toronto. Nearly 140 climbers com­peted for a place on the podium. The event saw a record 38 Cana­di­ans, who trav­elled from across the coun­try to com­pete.

The event brought many in the climb­ing com­mu­nity to­gether, com­peti­tors, spec­ta­tors and key spon­sors. Ac­cord­ing to or­ga­nizer Luigi Mon­tilla, “With­out the climb­ing wall from Allez Up, we wouldn’t be able to run the event. Part­ner­ing up with them and hav­ing them pro­vide the wall made all this pos­si­ble.”

For Allez Up owner Jean-Marc de la Plant, this is the first step in a dream, “I guess the ul­ti­mate dream is to have a mas­sive out­door event and have tons of peo­ple walk by and see this amaz­ing sport. That’s a long-term goal.” De la Plant goes on to ex­plain the wall is a new ven­ture, “We are hop­ing to give more vis­i­bil­ity to the sport through this wall and hope­fully it will pay off in its own way. Here we are pro­vid­ing it as a form of spon­sor­ship. For fu­ture events, we will rent it out and that’s why we did not brand the wall. Our logo is not on the wall, if a gym in Cal­gary wants to rent it and plas­ter it with their own lo­gos for na­tion­als next year for ex­am­ple, that is pos­si­ble.”

In the fi­nal round, Aus­trian Anna Stohr, Ger­man Ju­liane Wurm and Akiyo Noguchi of Ja­pan were clearly a step above the rest. But it was Stohr who pre­vailed, stick­ing the fin­ish on the bal­ance in­ten­sive prob­lem three, where Wurm and Noguchi were un­able to. The men’s side, on the other hand, pro­duced big up­sets. The big­gest sur­prise was the 20- year-old win­ner Al­ban Le­vier of France. Hav­ing only com­peted in a few boul­der­ing World Cups since leav­ing the ju­nior com­pe­ti­tions be­hind, Le­vier was a pow­er­house in fi­nals. In sec­ond was 18- year-old Amer­i­can Nathaniel Coleman who, like Le­vier, shocked ev­ery­one with his per­for­mance. Coleman’s only other World Cup was Vail in 2014 and he f in­ished in 22nd. In third place was the al­ways strong Czech Adam On­dra, who fought hard for the last spot on the podium.

Vet­eran na­tional team mem­ber Stacey Wel­don from Cal­gary was top Cana­dian woman in 23rd. Wel­don com­mented af­ter­wards, “When I started, there would maybe, be like five girls com­pet­ing, three girls in my cat­e­gory. At a na­tional, that might go up to 10. This year was huge, a huge show­ing at na­tion­als, just the fact that this many girls were psyched to come and com­pete at this level, it means the sport is grow­ing.”

Shaun Hunter, a ju­nior team coach and com­peti­tor from Toronto, echoes Wel­don’s sen­ti­ment, “It helps the sport grow, all these ath­letes gives the kids some­thing to look up to. I know the kids (I coach) re­ally liked that I am com­pet­ing here this week­end, it inspires them. There are a lot of kids volunteering here, it’s be­cause they want to be up close to the ath­letes and see them climb.”

The fol­low­ing week, the World Cup stopped in Vail for a com­pe­ti­tion at the GoPro Moun­tain Games. History was made for Canada when Saska­toon’s Jason Holowach joined Van­cou­ver’s Sean McColl in the fi­nals. It was the first time ever that two Cana­di­ans com­peted in a World Cup fi­nals. Af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion, Holowach said, “It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one joined Sean in a fi­nals and I’m just glad it was me.”–

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