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Athletes Head to Montreal for Difficulty and Speed Nationals: Who to Watch For

Allez-Up Climbing Gym in Montreal is hosting a huge event this weekend, May 18-20, 2019: CEC Nationals, two disciplines, youth and open categories. With a record-number of registered athletes, Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) recently posted an updated schedule. The competition takes place over three days, starting with Difficulty (Lead) Qualifiers for all categories on Saturday. Difficulty Semi-Finals are on Sunday morning and Finals start at 6pm (Youth) and 8:30pm (Open). With the exception of Youth C athletes, who will compete Saturday evening, the Speed event is scheduled for Monday. Finals begin at 3pm (Youth) and 4:30pm (Open).

The event organizers and setting crew have been hard at work, so tune in to the LIVESTREAM of Semis and Finals. You don’t want to miss Canada’s best athletes giving their all.

Who to watch for?

For Men’s Lead Open, local crushers Nathan Smith and Alex Fricker are certainly names to beat. Smith is on fire this competition season, with a second place at Open Boulder Nationals and first place at FQME Provincials. Smith just got back from China after competing for Team Canada at the Bouldering World Cups, which he admits “aren’t necessarily the best training for lead, [but] they do help insofar that they train power, which is always useful and they force you to try hard in uncomfortable situations, which might be even more important.” Regardless, Smith is “excited to compete [and] try hard in such a fun atmosphere.”

Fricker is a threat in both disciplines this weekend. He’s coming off a third place finish in Lead and first place in Speed at Quebec’s Provincials. Fricker told us that he’s “feeling pretty good. School has been full-on this semester so I haven’t had as much time to train as I would have liked but I’m still feeling strong and psyched!” Indeed, it’s interesting to be reminded that most of these competitors are not full time athletes.

From neighbouring Ontario, Florent Balsez is looking in fine overall form after winning the OCF Provincial Championship and an equally impressive performance that landed him silver at the Tour de Bloc Championships last month.

From the west coast, Guy McNamee took home bronze at BC Provincials and it would not be surprising to see him in Finals. McNamee says he’s “feeling good about the competition.”

A few key players in Men’s Open won’t be attending this weekend. Sean McColl, Jason Holowach and Lucas Uchida are in Munich for the IFSC Bouldering World Cup. And Elan Jonas McRae, who came first at BC Lead Provincials, is traveling in the US and Europe to focus on outdoor projects.

In Women’s Lead Open, Montrealers Audrey Larochelle and Babette Roy are sure to give the others a run for their money. Larochelle and Roy came first and second respectively at the FQME Lead Provincials (Larochelle also came second in Speed, behind Nadia Sparrow).

Ontario’s gold and silver medalists in Lead, Mei Nagasako and Elina Avramova are also names to watch for. Although Avramova will be at a disadvantage as she’s suffering from a ruptured ACL.

The 2019 National Lead Champion could also easily come from Western Canada. Despite not having competed so far this season in Lead or Speed, the current National Bouldering Champion, Allison Vest (BC), is registered to compete, as well as Becca Frangos (AB). Keep in mind, this particular event is important for any athlete with their sights on competing at the World Championships and the Olympics (2020).

Another strong contender is Paige Boklaschuk, who won the Alberta Lead Provincials. She told us that she’s “been aching to compete since I came home from China, so I’m really psyched.” Like other Team Canada athletes back from Asia, Boklaschuk notes that “Although I’m feeling strong right now, my endurance is definitely not where I’d like to be.” With the international competition schedule as it is, it’s tough for the athletes to stay in peak form in multiple disciplines. Boklaschuk has “mostly been focused on training for bouldering world cup events, including Vail next month.”

Finally, a major double threat is Lexi Binder, BC Provincial champion in both Lead and Speed. “I’m super excited!” says Binder. “I’m a little nervous, especially after boulder nationals did not go very well, but I’m just ready to have a lot of fun this weekend.”

Well, we all know what can happen when athletes just go out and have fun…

…They crush. So tune in for the LIVESTREAM and watch Canada’s best.