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Biggest Canadian Team Ever Assembled For Toronto Bouldering World Cup

L-R: Jason Holowach, Celeste Wall, Sean McColl

The IFSC World Cup in Toronto is only a day away and here’s a look at a few of the Canadians who’ll be giving their all in hopes of standing on the podium.

[shareprints gallery_id=”13304″ gallery_type=”thumb_slider” gallery_position=”pos_center” gallery_width=”width_100″ image_size=”large” image_padding=”0″ theme=”dark” image_hover=”false” lightbox_type=”slide” titles=”true” captions=”true” descriptions=”true” comments=”true” sharing=”true”]By Andre Cheuk, Toronto

Photos: Chris Lepik

The first IFSC World Cup Bouldering competition of the year, taking place in Toronto this weekend, will see a record number of Canadians compete at a World Cup. In all, 38 competitors from across Canada, 18 women and 20 men, have earned an entry to the top-level competition.

Aside from a record number of Canadians participating, the 2015 Toronto Bouldering World Cup, now running for the third year, is taking place at an all new venue, the Thornhill Arena just north of Toronto, with a custom competition wall, designed and built by Montreal based B-121 Climbing Solution. The new venue and purpose built wall promises more varied terrain and freedom for the route setters to challenge the competitors, and a better viewing experience for the spectators.

Two days before competition begins, members of team Canada gathered at official training facility Joe Rockhead’s Climbing Gym in Toronto, for a team presentation and dinner. Excitement and spirits are high for many of the assembled team members, as the Toronto Bouldering World Cup will be their biggest competition of the year, a rare opportunity to compete alongside and observe the best climbers in the world, like Czech super star Adam Ondra, competing in Canada for the first time.

Ben Fenton
Ben Fenton

Rookie Adult National Team member Ben Fenton, transitioning from the youth team, typifies the excitement of the entire team, “I’ve never even gone to a youth world, despite qualifying twice. So I was surprise to make it (national team) on my first try.”

When asked what had made the difference for him this year, Fenton answers without hesitation, “Joining the CCC (Calgary Climbing Centre) team, really put me on track. Walson (Tai) really helped drive me, and helped me reach my potential. I really buckled down and worked harder. I feel like I have trained much better, more efficient, as a result.”

For the upcoming competiton, Fenton said, “Honestly, I am just looking to climb hard and do my best… be smart about what I am doing.”

Sharing Fenton’s enthusiasm is Samantha Li, also out of the Calgary and on the same CCC team. This is Li’s second year on the National team, and she competed at her first World Cups in Austria and Switzerland last year, speaking of her experience there, Li said, “I loved it. Just to see how they move, how strong the top competitors can be, it makes me so optimistic for the future in Canada.”

Samantha Li
Samantha Li

Li also contrasts her European campaign last year compare to her experience thus far at the Toronto World Cup, “It’s been amazing the support we’ve had here, everything is organized, even people offering to drive us to from the hotel to the event venue. “All these aspects I didn’t have last year over there.”

Catherine Brunel-Guitton
Catherine Brunel-Guitton

Another rookie World Cup competitor is Catherine Brunel-Guitton, from Montreal. Despite competing in her first World Cup, Brunel-Guitton has long been a top competition climber in Quebec, going back well over a decade, but took a break from competition climbing to pursue a medical degree and to raise a family.

Brunel-Guitton said she started back training seriously just a year ago, with the objective to be in sport climbing shape outdoors for this summer, but then “In November I felt my bouldering was quite good, back to where I was before I had the kids. And now my kids are older, so I decided this year was the year, maybe the only year, to try and qualified for the World Cup. I am surprised, but very happy to make it, I had no expectations.”

Just as much as newcomers, the Canadian team also contains a solid core of savvy veterans, climbers like Kerry Briggs, Stacey Weldon and Saskatoon’s Jason Holowach. For Holowach, the Toronto Bouldering World Cup is merely the kick off to his campaign, “I am signed up for all the World Cups this season. So this year will be my first year doing them all.”

Holowach had a breakthrough performance at last year’s Toronto World Cup, making it through to the semi-final round, the only Canadian to do so besides Sean McColl. He is looking to build on that 2014 performance, “My goal this year is to try and make a final. I think that is the natural progression from making semis and getting close.”

Of course, all eyes will be on Sean McColl, both competitors and spectators alike. McColl is a legitimate star of the circuit, and a genuine contender for the win at every competition he shows up to.

Sean McColl
Sean McColl

For the past two edition of the Toronto World Cup, McColl has been far and away the most popular athlete in the crowd, and he has stated previously that he “would love to win this home World Cup.” With a 6th and a 3rd place, McColl has gotten close, but both him and the home crowd had hoped for more.

This time around, McColl appears very relaxed, more so than the previous two years. “My build up has been good,” McColl stated, “better than the last year, usually I train too much.” When asked what was the difference this year, McColl attributed it to being home in Vancouver, “Probably because I was home for Lead and Speed Nationals, so I have just been training a bit and having fun climbing in Squamish. It’s been good.”

Tickets for this weekend’s comp is still available, at the event website until Friday May 29, or on site at the venue day of events, cash only.

Canadian Men: Sean McColl, Jason Holowach, Sebastien Lazure, Eric Sethna, Yves Gravelle, Andrew Funk, Nathan Smith, Ayo Sopeju, Marc Eveleigh, Dan Archambault, Samuel Tukuvaara, Andre Difelice, Jake Tiger, Bourassa Moreau, Yves Gravelle, Shaun Hunter, Jesse Taplin, Ville Tiukuvaara, Andrew Funk, Nathan Smith, Dmitri Karaman, Lucas Uchida and Ben Fenton.

Canadian Women: Elise Sethna, Elizabeth Vince, Becca Frangos, Clarrie Lam, Stacey Weldon, Allison Stewart-Patterson, Kristina Jellema, Ashley Veevers, Thomasina Pidgeon, Samantha Li, Celeste Wall, Alyssa Weber, Veronique Gosselin, Su En Neo, Allison Vest, Catherine Brunel-Guitton, Esti Tweg and Olivia Wyett.