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The Favourites Fall to a Fresh Set of Finalists

A fresh set of finalists have determined there will be a brand new Bouldering National Champion, but the field's too deep to discern who

Canadian bouldering nationals saw the end of its second round late this morning. The four-boulder event took 40 climbers across two gender categories through a variety of challenging problems. An intense competition saw limited separation. Watch finals here today at 3:30 EST.

The fields were deep. In the men’s category, most athletes had a shot at podium. Although Nationals always takes the best the country has to offer, this year’s competition brought forth a fresh set of break-out athletes alongside the heavy hitters from previous seasons.

Although it was anyone’s game, few would have predicted the semi-final result. The day belonged to Nathan Smith. The Bloc Shop routesetter grew up training with fourth-place qualified Lucas Uchida before moving to Quebec. These two climbers are often compared, but Smith has had trouble getting back into form since the pandemic.

At the recent North American Cup Series event, Smith did not climb the round he might have wanted, however, he is back today. As the only athlete to climb all four problems, Smith showed what can come from momentum. His most impressive ascent of the morning came from his second attempt on M2, where he flowed through the physical upper section of the climb.

Although he did have a strong round, finals is far from decided. Oscar Baudrand managed second position with three tops in four attempts. Of all six athletes qualified for finals, Baudrand was the most precise in making his way to the Top.

To that effect, his three Top, four Zone result was shared by all other athletes who made it into finals. The only thing that separated Baudrand from sixth-place qualified Sean Faulkner is five attempts to Top. It could be anyone’s game.

Baudrand has posted increasingly consistent results this season. He took semi-finals in a World Cup, climbed two V14s this fall, earned a bronze medal at the Richmond North American Cup Series (NACS) event, and has now taken second into Finals.

His brother Victor took third. The older Baudrand also had a strong season. He took second in Kanata, made finals in a World Cup this summer, and also posted a strong ascent of Yves Gravelle’s Miall’s Ahead V14 just last week. Today, Victor has qualified in third position, but generally offers greater consistency in bouldering competitions. Although Victor has had trouble securing a gold in recent local events, he almost always podiums and will be one to look out for.

While these top three seem intimidating by themselves, fourth-place qualified Uchida has also climbed a strong season. He earned gold in both Canada-based NACS events. Although he qualified in fourth, it is difficult to say that he finished in a substantially different position than the Baudrands.

The darkhorse of the round is fifth-place qualified Ethan Hoffman. Hoffman has been on the Canadian comp scene for years and even trained in the recent Olympic competition simulation based out of the Richmond Oval. He will be one to watch.

Finally, Sean Faulkner swept up sixth position with a controlled display of technique. Edging Zach Richardson out of finals by two attempts to Top, Faulkner continued what has become a successful two weeks. After earning fourth in US Nationals and establish a V14 is Little Cottonwood Canyon, Faulkner looked ready to prove himself on Canada’s National stage.

Stepping back from the finalists individually, they make very interesting group. All fall within five years of one another, with the oldest climber being 23. Of the six qualified here today, Faulkner and both Baudrands have spent a great deal of the last year training in Salt Lake City, Utah. It does suggest there is value in having a national climbing hub.

What else is interesting is that the conventional favourites did not make finals. Sean McColl, Guy McNamee, and Richardson each climbed well, but they could not break into finals. It seems less likely that these athletes are becoming less proficient, and more likely that the rest of the field has found a great deal of strength in this last year.

Men Advancing to Finals

1 – Nathan Smith

2 – Oscar Baudrand

3 – Victor Baudrand

4 – Lucas Uchida

5 – Ethan Hoffman

6 – Sean Faulkner

Featured image of Lucas Uchida by Philip Quade of Rock Digital Marketing.