Vail The World Cup Go Against Top In­ter­na­tional Com­peti­tors

Gripped - - FEATURE - Story and Pho­tos by Philip Quade Gripped

It was the only World Cup in North Amer­ica this year and Cana­di­ans brought their A-game. On June 10 and 11, the ifsc Boul­der­ing World Cup took place in Vail, Colo. It was likely the big­gest event at the Go­Pro Moun­tain Games and I was for­tu­nate to be front and cen­tre as a pho­tog­ra­pher for and Climb­ing Es­calade Canada ( cec). Also tak­ing pho­tos for Canada was Will Johnson from Toronto, who I had the op­por­tu­nity to work with through­out the comp. He has been com­pet­ing in a cou­ple of World Cups this year and climbed well in qual­i­fiers in Vail. Things were quiet the night be­fore the event started, as the ath­letes were think­ing more about hard climb­ing more than any­thing else. The Cana­dian team re­tired early, most af­ter a good meal and some casual so­cial­iz­ing. By 8:30 p.m., all of Vail seemed to have gone to bed in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the World Cup. I ar­rived on day one at 7 a.m. to get or­ga­nized and learn the lay­out of the event grounds. It was to be my first World Cup event and ex­cite­ment started be­fore the gates opened.

Male qual­i­fiers kicked off at 9 a.m. with Sean McColl lead­ing the charge for the Cana­dian team. There was a long list of com­peti­tors for the men that was spread out over two heats that took place si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Later in the day, the fe­males would com­pete in one heat. Qual­i­fiers were full day of ac­tion. From a pho­tog­ra­pher’s per­spec­tive, I found the set to be some­what more chal­leng­ing com­pared to what we would re­ceive dur­ing semis and fi­nals, but it was the per­fect chance to net­work, and meet the other pho­tog­ra­phers. Be­ing an am­a­teur sport­ing event pho­tog­ra­pher, I learned a lot by watch­ing the other in­ter­na­tional me­dia crews.

It was great to see fa­mil­iar faces take the stage as qual­i­fiers pro­gressed. It made the whole ex­pe­ri­ence more ex­cit­ing as I watch fel­low Cana­di­ans roll out one by one to com­pete against the world’s best. A num­ber of ath­letes from Western Canada that I had pho­tographed at the Cal­gary Climb­ing Cen­tre made the trip to Vail. Climbers such as Ja­son Holowach, Gavin Johnson, Stacey Wel­don and Al­li­son Vest. Other Cana­di­ans who were com­pet­ing in­cluded Elise Sethna, Eric Sethna, Alan­nah Yip, An­dre DeFelice, Pia Gra­ham, Lia Wieck­owski, Will Johnson and Scott Wil­liams.

The first male qual­i­fy­ing prob­lem, which was set up be­hind the venue away from the main stage, shut down most of the men early. But that didn’t stop some from putting on a good show on the main stage for prob­lem two. It was hard to ig­nore the fo­cus of many pho­tog­ra­phers and me­dia was the story of Alex Puc­cio, who in­jured her knee at the 2015 Vail World Cup. Puc­cio suf­fered the in­jury dur­ing her warm-up in iso­la­tion be­fore qual­i­fiers be­gan. It took her a few months to make a full re­cov­ery and was soon send­ing her first V13s on real stone. I had the chance to speak to Puc­cio in Vail this year and she was com­plain­ing of neck pain. It would later be dis­cov­ered that she had a very badly her­ni­ated disc, her C5 and C6 ver­te­bras in her neck, and the disc was push­ing on her spinal cord. One week af­ter the World Cup, she had to have emer­gency surgery to re­move the disc and fuse her C5 and C6 to­gether.

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