This evening, the final event of the five-part North American Cup Series came to a close. Ranging from Salt Lake City through to Kanata, Ontario, the NACS brought athletes far and wide in effort to progress North American competition.
The Series included Speed, Lead and Boulder events, developing athletes of all disciplines. Although the United States hosted the first three events, BC and Ontario brought home the final two competitions. With the conclusion of the Richmond Oval’s Lead and Speed events earlier this month, many boulderers awaited the Kanata-based bouldering competition with anticipation. For several athletes, this opportunity represented their first to compete since the onset of the pandemic.
With a scramble-style qualification round featuring eight boulder problems per gender category, competitors kicked off having to climb as much as possible to qualify for the next day’s semi-final event. This morning’s semi-final came complete with four boulder problems, 20 competitors and six available spots for finals in each gender category. The exciting round did not have commentary, but that would change in the evening’s final round.
Plastic Weekly’s Tyler Norton hosted an exhilarating finals that saw 12 climbers compete across both categories with five minutes to ascend each of the round’s four problems. First out for the men was Canadian Brennan Doyle. Find the women’s Final here.
Although Doyle is most recently known for his mid-pandemic ascent of the Reckoning, the powerful boulderer is no stranger to competitive climbing. In 2020, Doyle competed in the Pan-American Championship as a 16-year-old and brought that same gumption to this evening’s event. He floated through the powerful one-two-three sequence of the first boulder.
Moving quickly off the starting jug into a compression between the Zone and a positive right hand, Doyle stood hard into the upper triangle volume that preceded the finish. Setting his heel, Doyle cammed against the wall, brought his left foot over to the lower triangle volume and matched on the almost featureless box above his head. Wrapping the negative surface, Doyle reached easily into the finish jug and concluded his climb with a flash.
Ontario’s Zach Richardson then entered the field. He and all who would follow also flashed the relatively easy M1. As no separation occurred, the competition dropped from a four boulder round to a three bloc competition. Each problem mattered.
While M1 appeared too easy for this group of competitors, M2 provided a great deal of difficulty. Doyle wasted no time. Taking a brush, he cleaned each of the immediate holds and pulled onto the boulder’s small grips. Standing well through the first move, Doyle appeared uncertain about how to progress to Zone. Shifting he stuck his right hand wide to catch the low profile volume as a press. Unable to stop his motion, he did not secure Zone.
After Doyle’s attempts, Richardson took once more to the field. He appeared much more comfortable on the wall and flashed to Zone before falling in his effort to match the finish. Despite his well climbed flash attempt, Richardson could not secure the finish of M2. The techy rock over sequence proved cruxy and the low profile volume on which he stood seemed too negative to move his hips far enough right to secure the finish.
American Adam Shahar then entered the field. Despite a relatively shaky flash of M1, Shahar moved fluid and flawless on M2. Hitting the first move carefully, he rocked over to Zone before lifting his left foot onto a tiny gib. Keeping his hips open, he pressed his right foot into the low-profile Zone and reached up into a pair of edges. Resituating his right foot further over onto a gib on the other side of the triangle zone, he trusted his hips, remained open to the wall and secured M2 in a single attempt.
Defending Canadian Bouldering National Champion Guy McNamee then entered the field. Looking secure, he moved well through the bottom before a foot pop sent him back to the pads. Climbing with even greater flexibility than Shahar, McNamee made it through to the finish hold on his second attempt.
Top qualified competitors Victor Baudrand and Lucas Uchida then entered M2 in quick succession. Both athletes appeared somewhat unsettled by the problem, but after a few attempts, they each found their way to the finish. With the top of the field separated by attempts, the final two boulder problems became decisive.
Doyle approached M3. The opening sequence forced a sidestep left into a gib screwed around knee height on the very volume Doyle stepped to. Stopping the momentum while simultaneously remaining on the box appeared difficult until learned. Upon securing the Zone, Doyle lept toward a sloper. The hold, though positive did not offer quite enough purchase to stop on. On his first attempt after sticking the Zone, Doyle fell double clutching to the finish. On his second he sent the climb.
In the same fashion Richardson followed Doyle to the Top, but both climbers only had two tops for three boulders. Although the technical sequence proved unflashable, only McNamee would not secure the Top on M3. This made M4 all the more important, but it also pushed Shahar, Baudrand and Uchida into a strong position heading into the final problem.
It would be difficult to usurp any of these athletes from the podium, but it was not clear who would win.
Despite a perhaps less-than-ideal round for Doyle, the BC strong man took to the field with confidence. The three-dimensional M4 looked steep and powerful, requiring big moves on big holds to get to the finish. Beginning and dead-pointing through the hold fixed underneath a higher volume, Doyle easily held the swing, stuck his feet back on the wall and continued to the final volumes. Only now grabbing Zone, Doyle moved further to find a gaston across his body. He then reached to an undercling and leapt to the finish hold. He topped M1 with a flash.
Richardson followed and climbed well appearing just out of power by the final hold. In this same way Shahar fell going for the finish hold as well. After two extremely strong athletes it appeared uncertain how the rest of the field might shake out.
McNamee entered in on the final boulder. He made an attempt and fell. Striving, he looked for another way. Going feet first, McNamee inverted himself 15 feet off the matts. Daring to commit, he concluded his climb to cheers as athletes and spectators alike could not believe what they were seeing.
Excitement building, it was unclear who stood where. Victor Baudrand was next, however, and with three tops he stood a real chance of securing gold. Falling on his first attempt, Baudrand took his second go and made it through the Zone. Foot swinging he strove for several betas, but could not make them work. As a last resort, he went for the same beta as McNamee and wrapped his feet around the Top. In the the end his inversion earned him first position. Uchida had yet to go.
Finally,Uchida stepped onto the matts. Like Baudrand, Uchida had three Tops heading into M4. He would need a Top to win, but it was unclear how few attempts separated him from Baudrand. Questing through the bottom, Uchida looked secure. He came upon the final sequence. Finding a foot far from his person, Uchida lept, slipping down the left side of the Top. Fighting he managed to secure his feet, the finish, and his second consecutive NACS gold medal.
With Paris 2024 less than three years away, the question of Canada’s next Olympians will be answered in competition With consecutive victories in Lead and boulder, Uchida looks primed for the new Olympic format. For now we await the World Cup season.
For more on Lucas Uchida click here.
1 – Lucas Uchida (CAN)
2 – Victor Buadrand (CAN)
3 – Adam Shahar (USA)
4 – Guy McNamee (CAN)
5 – Brennan Doyle (CAN)
6 – Zach Richardson (CAN)
Featured image of Lucas Uchida by Ilya Sarossy