Vail The World Cup Go Against Top International Competitors
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.