River Denys man wins bronze in timber sports
There aren’t many honours – beyond world-class silver or gold – in timber sports that are higher than the one George Williams of River Denys, Inverness County achieved at the 2018 Stihl Timbersports World Championship.
Williams, who recently competed at the highest level in the world in the sawdust-flinging, wood rending, physically demanding timber sports, is excited to competing at such a level. He is also eager to get back into training and competing, to push himself even further, after winning the bronze medal at the competition in Lunenburg, Oct. 19.
"The team did amazingly well. We only lost our semi-final round and we lost to Australia, who set a world-record time in the race against us, and then went on to win the world championship," Williams said.
Team Canada went up against teams from 23 countries, competing in front of 3,000 spectators at the Echo Arena. Although they didn’t get the gold, the members of Team Canada were proud to place this year, surpassing former world champions, Team New Zealand. Although Team Canada lost to Australia, the team that went on to take gold, Williams said the team had little time to recover from the loss, because the next match was against New Zealand.
"We had a great championship. Perhaps if we were on the other side of the [tournament] bracket, we would have made the final, but it happened that we were on the same bracket side as the team who won the event," Williams said. "These things happen during these kinds of events, and Team Canada did the best form the cards that were dealt to us."
Williams said it is an honour to earn bronze, beating New Zealand – and to be selected as a member of Team Canada, "because you are truly chosen amongst the best athletes in the country."
"You spend the whole year competing against this bunch, and then at one point of the year, we all become a team and we work together to represent our country. It’s a great thing to be a part of," Williams added.
Williams ranks as a top athlete in the Canadian circuit, which allows him to compete at the world-level.
"I am very grateful for where I am, currently, in the sport," Williams said. "My ultimate goal, which I haven’t accomplished yet, is to be Canadian champion."
The tournament featured athletes from parts of Canada that have a busy forestry industries – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia.
Williams participated in the single buck competition. Basically, that entails sawing large logs with an equivalently large saw.
"In the team relay event, you go over four disciplines in a relay format. You start with stock saw, then underhand chop, then single buck and you finish with standing block chop," Williams said. "I was the third one in the relay and the challenge is both physical and mental, because it is a very demanding event."
On top of that, the further a team gets, the more of a challenge they face from the competition.
"You have to perform, and at the same time, battle with the physical aspect of your body getting more and more tired, round after round. Also, you don’t want to disappoint your team members or your country – it’s a very demanding event."
Williams is no newcomer to timber sports, having started in college competitions, eventually moving onto the Stihl Timbersports rookie division, winning the Canadian championship in 2016, and joining the pro ranks in 2017.
"This year, I didn’t have a great Canadian championship, but I made the Canadian Championships Trophy in Charlottetown, PEI in third place."
Williams has competed all over Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe.
Training to participate in timber sports onstage is no walk in the park – or woods – either.
"I do a lot of physical training, preparing my body and making sure that my nutrition is right, and that, also, my body recovers well after a workout," Williams explained.
Although he hasn’t gotten any injuries in a sport that looks like it could easily inflict a few, with its use of saws and axes, Williams noted, "you always have to be careful, because an injury or a cut can happen anytime."
Training this year was a challenge, but Williams noted he was excited throughout the whole process.
The week of training that took place before the world championship in Lunenburg was "nerve-wracking," with the training taking place in Spain. During that week, Ben Cumberland a fellow sawyer from New Brunswick was also invited to train.
"We are both very strong in training but, in the end, our team manager gave me the vote of
confidence and put me in, and I was very grateful," Williams said.
"Discipline training is the most important part," Williams said, adding that he has set aside a practice area at home, where he currently spends a great deal of time, daily, training. 2019 is going to be a busy year, as he intends to continue participating in Stihl Timbersports events.
That practice continues, Williams said, because he has high goals to achieve in timber sports. These include plans to win the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Champions trophy event on Canada Day, in Sydney.
"I want to win on my home turf, in Cape Breton. I hope to count on the support of the locals," Williams said. "Then I want to win the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Championship in Mississauga, Ontario."
Williams knows the competition will be difficult, but maintains that he will try his best to prepare for both events through a regular, rigorous regimen of training.
"Finally, I want to be selected again, for Team Canada, so let’s see what the future has in store for me."
In addition to proper training, the athletes in timber sports require tools that are as honed and primed as they are for competition. Saws and axes, of course are the tools of the trade in timber sports, but these are not the kinds of axes and saws you could find sitting around in the average garden shed.
Williams uses specialty racing axes and saws – including chainsaws – that are all honed for efficiency and speed.
"Our racing axes mostly come from New Zealand, but it depends on how much money you want to spend on an axe," Williams said. "A typical good axe is about $900 [in Canadian dollars]. We also use chainsaws and single buck saws."
A single buck saw can run anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000, Williams noted, and saws that fit the requirements of timber sports are rare, since there are only a few people in the world who make them.
"They are invaluable when you get your hands on a good one," Williams said.
The chainsaws used in timber sports are called ‘hot chainsaws,’ which range in prices, starting at $5,000. ‘Hot’ chainsaws are a far cry from the kind you can find public works employees using to clear brush in the spring. They are often outfitted with engines that are much more powerful than the ones that power conventional chainsaws.
George Williams, competing at the Stihl Timbersports 2018 World Championship in Lunenburg.