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Interview with Ontario Open Boulder Champ Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith took top spot in Open at last week’s Ontario Bouldering Championships/Tour de Bloc at Boulderz Climbing Centre in Etobicoke. It was one of the best comps of the year and you can see results here. We touched base with Smith after his win.

How many Bouldering comp seasons have you been competing in? I started competing my first year of Youth B, took a break in my second year of Youth B because of a fractured neck and have competed ever since. However, this is really my second year competing in the open category.

Had you won any Tour de Bloc or Provincials before? Last year, I won my first open Provincial title in both Bouldering and Lead. I have also won many Provincials and a number of National events in my time as a Youth athlete. I have competed in three World Youth Championships. I placed 11th in Bouldering and 17th in lead at the last championship in China in 2016.

How has the Bouldering comp season? This is my first event this season – so, I’m off to a good start!

How were you feeling heading into the comp? I was super excited to be competing again, and it’s always nice to be competing at my home gym. I wasn’t feeling very confident because I had taken a three-week break from all things climbing, which only ended a week and a half prior to the event.

How was qualifications at Boulderz? Problems? The qualification problems were good, very varied in style and feel. The setters tested everything from compression, to coordination jumps on slab to pure crimp strength I felt much better going into finals than I was going into Qualifiers. Between rounds I took a much needed nap which helped me a lot, ate and relaxed.

How were the Finals? Right out of the gate, on problem one, I lost balance off the relatively easy starting position and fell. I put that behind me and focused on my next attempt and I sent the problem. I found the big move over the lip – going to bonus – as well as the last move, a weird hand smear mantle on the outside of a huge hueco-like hold to the cruxes of this climb.

After having “wasted” an attempt on problem one, I was not ready to let that happen again; on the second problem, I made sure I made my first attempt count, and walked away with a flash. This problem was a pretty typical slab climb which revolved around a big move over a lip to a bad sloper followed by a lock-off and a hard match.

Having made up for my mistake on problem one, I was feeling good and ready for problem three. The third problem was a technical slab problem which heavily relied on body position. Off the start, you got yourself in a split like position with a bad sloper at chest height that you had to transfer your weight around before being able to get any purchase from it. From here you reached bonus, got set up and did a big, committing move for the top. Thankfully, the body position before the last move was quite generous and I was able to take a moment to breathe before committing.

The last problem was a classic finals problem. Impressive, big moves – an instant crowd pleaser. Instead of doing a dyno to two slopey stalactite like holds, I chose a more powerful but less committing start sequence where I faced out and pressed against the starting volume and those holds before turning myself around and continuing. A big move to a third stalactite secured bonus, then a few more powerful moves before reaching the last move – a big drive by/cross through, which was very exciting. (Click to play clip below)

What did you do to celebrate? To celebrate, I had dinner with friends and other competitors.

Plans for the rest of the comp season? As for the rest of the season, I will be heading to Nationals in March and I may do a few local Tour de Blocs. I will most likely be heading oversees later to compete in a few World Cups.

Any rock plans? I am hoping to go on short trips to the Red River Gorge in the spring, and I’m starting to plan an August climbing trip, either in France or the States.