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Countdown to Comp Season: New Rules from the CEC Spark Controversy

The countdown to the start of Canada’s sanctioned competition circuit is on. The first Provincial Sports Organization (PSO) sanctioned events are next Sat., Oct. 20, 2018. However, with a week to go before the season gets underway, new rules have thrown a simmering controversy in the competition climbing community into sharp relief.

Last week, Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) announced that competitors will have to qualify to attend Nationals. While it is not uncommon for athletes in general, or for climbers specifically (e.g., in the USA), to compete to earn a spot at a national championship, this has not been the case for climbers in Canada for years; anybody with a CEC membership was able to compete.

The new qualifying regulations state that competitors must compete in a provincial championship in order to attend Nationals. There are different rules accommodating athletes who do not live in a province with a PSO.

The announcement states that there are no provincial quotas on open competitors going to Nationals this season. This comes as a relief, no doubt, to the the gym hosting open bouldering Nationals, as well as to many athletes. It is implied, however, that we could see quotas on qualifying numbers in the future for open competitors, such as there is now for the youth. With the current high number of youth climbers, one can see the rationale for provincial caps. This is not the case for open bouldering as yet.

Climbers are still waiting to hear how National Teams will be determined. In past years, the CEC held National Series events across the country and results from these competitions, as well as from National Championships, determined the athletes’ national rankings. In turn, the rankings more or less decided the athletes who represented Canada at international events.

This year, however, there are no National Series competitions, leaving the competitors wondering how their national rankings, and by extension the National Teams, will be decided. This information is needed for athletes to set goals, choose which competitions to attend and schedule their training.

The CEC has stated it will make an announcement on Mon., Oct. 15, 2018 with information on Open and Youth National Team Programs.

The announcement of new rules and upcoming, last-minute changes precipitated some broader criticisms of the CEC on social media. The CEC is under fire for a lack of transparency on a variety of fronts (e.g., finances, hiring processes). There is also upset regarding higher registration fees coupled with fewer CEC-sanctioned events. To date, the CEC has contributed minimally to the online conversation.

More broadly speaking, however, there is a shared feeling among the discontented that the CEC, with its eye on the Olympics, is forsaking the spirit of the whole for the sake of a few.

At the same time, there are many people who support the changes to the rules and who are excited about the current direction of the CEC, with its emphasis on preparing Canadian athletes for the international stage.

In theory, these are not mutually exclusive goals: to accommodate the growth of the sport, provide resources and training for Canada’s well-deserving elite athletes, while also uniting climbers of many levels across the country in their love of competition climbing.

Regardless, given recent public debates, clearly there remains a need for more communication from the CEC and accountability as an organization. This would be a vital step toward reuniting a seemingly divided community.

Below is a summary of the bouldering comp schedule:

NB: Grip It is in Saskatoon, SK, but the event is sanctioned by Alberta’s PSO, the Alberta Climbing Association