Canadian Youth Team climber Zach Richardson competed at the U.S.A. Bouldering Nationals last weekend, and we got a chance to catch up with him after his return north of the border.
The start of the year got off to a rocky start for Richardson. The Ontario climber felt shaky going into Canadian Bouldering Nationals, but began to feel better in at following the competition. In a moment’s decision, he decided that he would push himself to compete in Bend, Oregon, against U.S.A.’s top boulderers.
Richardson has been fighting a hand injury for over two years and while he’s fortunate that the injury is not damaging, it causes a great deal of pain. This is tough because he recognizes that his limitations are defined by how much pain he can sustain. As Canadian Nationals approached, Richardson became more and more apprehensive about the competition.
The pain continued to increase and his confidence began to fall away. On the brink of abandoning the season all-together, Richardson decided to double-down and compete anyway. After a long Nationals, he finished in second position and his confidence was restored.
Though it was not the result he was hoping for, Richardson was still pleased and decided to move on to U.S. Nationals. He said, “I always thought the event looked so epic and thought it would be a lotta fun.”
Heading into the qualifying round, Richardson began to adapt to the format of the U.S. competition. The climbing format for the qualification and semi-finals rounds was different from what he was used to. Four minutes to climb and four minutes to rest between boulders.
This style removes both a minute of climbing and resting from the classic five-on, five-off format of the IFSC circuit. In addition, IFSC rules utilizes zone holds. Zones are holds that, when controlled, give the climber a boost in the rankings for the competition. There is normally one per climb.
In USAC Nationals, there are a variety of zones, each denoting a different point value. As the climber ascends, they achieve these zones on their way to the top. This format “was incredibly difficult to manage and the multiple zones per boulder added a new level of strategy.”
Successful in the preliminary rounds, Richardson made it to Finals. Going into the event he said, “I thought anything was possible. I was prepared for a spanking, but I also knew that it could be something very special.” The humble Canadian climbed well in finals finishing just behind some of America’s strongest competitive climbers.
Olympian Nathaniel Coleman took first, quickly followed by Sean Bailey in second and Ben Hanna in third. Richardson took fourth, just missing out on the podium. Richardson said that USAC Nationals was an awesome competition.
He said, “It’s one I can’t miss after that experience! I was surprised by how similar, or in some cases better, it was to a World Cup in terms of the production quality and organization.”
The 2018 Pan Am Champion is stoked to finish off his season and return to USAC Nationals after another year. For now, his focus returns to Canadian Youth Bouldering Nationals. The Competition will be held at the Hive North Shore Feb. 15 to 16.
For full results of USAC Open Bouldering Nationals, click here.