River Denys man wins bronze in tim­ber sports

The Casket - - Sports - SAM MAC­DON­ALD sam­mac­don­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

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.

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