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Competition Climbing Returns to Canada!

Canadian competition climbing has returned. Regional and National level events have been scheduled for later this year

Although competition climbing seems to have disappeared from Canadian athletics, the CEC has announced that 2021 will see it return. On April 15, Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) announced this upcoming year’s competition schedule.

In the winter of 2020 and 2021, the CEC conducted a full review of its competition offerings. Although the COVID-19 pandemic paused Canadian competitive climbing, it has returned in peak form.

According to the CEC’s website, a one-size-fits-all approach to qualification events at the Regional and National levels needed a redesign. As such, the CEC has created multiple pathways to qualify for National events.

The 2021-2022 Events Calendar has three series:

  • The Fall Series: CEC Senior Combined Series (Boulder and Lead)
  • The Winter Series: CEC Speed Series (All age categories)
  • The Spring Series: CEC Youth Combined Series (Boulder and Lead)
Becca Frangos on speed

CEC Senior Combined Series

This category will contain athletes of ages 16 and up. While some form of Provincial competition will likely occur to qualify athletes for Nationals, each provinces Provincial / Territorial Sport Organization (PTSO) has retained control of athlete selection.

Although the event will take place this fall, the CEC has already begun to look for climbing gyms to host the event. They stated that strong consideration will be given to facilities that are supported by their PTSO. For requirements as to how a gym might qualify, click here.

They have scheduled the event for November 25-29, 2021. The CEC has estimated a total of 175 unique athletes and 250 registrations. This suggests that the CEC believes 75 athletes will compete in both boulder and lead.

While a five-day competition may sound like a lot, the third day will allocate rest for the athletes competing in both Boulder and Lead. Bouldering will take place on the 25 and 26 and Lead will begin on the 28 and carry through the 29.  Although athletes can register and qualify for both disciplines, the majority will likely compete in only one discipline.

Among the many changes that have come to define this year’s schedule, the CEC has included several new pathways to the National Championships.

The first pathway directly invites High Performance Program (HPP) athletes to the competition. These athletes will receive their invitation five months from the event.

Although HPP athletes do have guaranteed spots, these invitation are discipline-based. Not every HPP athlete will receive an invitation for every discipline. As such, athletes with a high Continuous National Ranking (CNR) might also receive invitations depending on the discipline and its capacity. While the number of quotas has not yet been determined, top finishers from Youth Nationals in categories Youth A and Junior will also receive invitations.

Unused quotas from this pre-qualification pathway will add to the quota for Provincial Qualification Pathways.

Each PTSO will have a fixed number of quota spots for the National Championships. This number has not yet been determined. The CEC recommends that PTSO’s host a competition to qualify athletes in a fair manner. Unused quota positions will be reallocated to other provinces.

The CEC said that Finals will prepare athletes for World Cup and World Championship level competitions.

CEC Speed Series

This event will include categories ranging from Youth C (12-13 years of age) to Senior. It will follow a structure similar to pre-pandemic competitions. It will hold Eastern and Western Regional Events from February 19-20, 2022 for all categories. The National Championships will occur between March 26 and 27 of 2022.

The 2021-2022 hosting call will open by the end of April, 2021.

Qualification for this event resembles Boulder and Lead Nationals; however, there remains the possibility of a minimum qualifying time. This condition has not yet been confirmed. In addition, there will exist automatic qualifying times where athletes racing at a certain speed will automatically qualify for the event. This time has not yet been determined. The CEC plans to base this time off of World-level averages.

The CEC has also estimated that 160 total athletes will compete in each Regionals, while 130 total athletes will compete at Nationals. For more information on Speed and gym-hosting application requirements, click here.

Brennan Doyle mid-sequence.

CEC Youth Combined Series

This event will facilitate youth climbers aged 12 to 19 in the Youth C and Junior categories.

Unlike the Senior-level competition, this series will include Eastern and Western Regional Championships between April 15 and April 17, 2022. The series will also include a National Championships between May 19 and May 23, 2022.

Much like the Senior-level competition, the combined format will include a rest day in the National Championships. The Regional Championships will include three consecutive days of competition.

The estimated attendance for each Regional event numbers 200 total registrations per region with 150 unique athletes.

The estimated National’s attendance numbers 250 total registrations with 180 unique athletes.

Although the CEC has not required Provincial Championships, it appears likely that many, if not all, provinces will hold a Provincial-level competition.

For more on how to qualify for Youth Championships, click here.

Alannah Yip dropping a knee

The Future of Canadian Climbing

Although the competitions themselves provide an exciting opportunity for athletes that have missed competition, perhaps the most exciting part of this comes with the complete overhaul of the CEC and its objectives.

While the pandemic has proved frustrating, the CEC has not allowed any grass to grow under its feet. Their objectives for each of these Series and their associated championships include route setter and competition-official development. This includes speed coaching development, which, with the addition of Head Coach, and ex-speed World Champion, Libor Hroza has great potential.

The level at which the CEC now operates reflects the developing nature of Competition Climbing. They have laid infrastructure for youth athletes and their development to the World Championship stage. Nationals offers the opportunity for talent identification as well as the national celebration of the sport.

All of this comes in addition to, and in preparation for, the North American Cup Series which will incorporate  Canadians into US-based competitions and vice versus. The dates and locations for these competitions follow:

  • USA Climbing National Training Center, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bouldering – June 12th – 13th, 2021
  • Altitude Gym, Kanata, Ontario: Bouldering – July 17th – 18th, 2021
  • Stone Age Climbing Gym, Albuquerque, New Mexico: Bouldering, Lead, Speed – August 25-29, 2021
  • Reach Climbing and Fitness, Bridgeport, PA: Lead, Speed – September 17th – 19th, 2021
  • Richmond Olympic Oval, Richmond, British Columbia: Lead, Speed – October 8th – 10th, 2021

This series comes as a result of the recent partnership between the CEC and USA Climbing that occurred in order to provide their athletes, officials, and setters with greater competitive opportunities.

All of these developments come, in part, due to the rising popularity of the sport. The Olympic Games has elevated climbing to a new sphere of international competition. Canada’s and the United States’ National Sports Organizations have developed in order to keep up.

It is a good sign that climbing has already begun to expand before the beginning of the Olympics. As the sport becomes more professional, so will the athletes and the level of competition.

For more information on the North American Cup Series, click here.

Sean McColl

Featured image of Alannah Yip.