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Words With Canadian World Cup Competitor Jason Holowach

Jason Holowach was part of a history-making Canadian team who competed at the Vail World Cup on June 6.

Jason Holowach is the owner of Grip It, a climbing gym in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He started climbing when he was nine and his first competition was six months later. His parents sent him on the road with three others to Kelowna where he placed third.

Jason Holowach climbing at his own gym, Grip It in Saskatoon.  Photo Pam Eveleigh
Jason Holowach climbing at his own gym, Grip It in Saskatoon. Photo Pam Eveleigh

He’s competed and won a few youth national championships and titles along with one open national Bouldering championship. He took third at Nationals this year (fourth overall, but American Josh Larson finished in second). He attended three youth world competitions and placed fourth at one.

In the last two years, he’s competed at the IFSC World cup bouldering circuit and world Championships where he placed 45th overall in the circuit and 19th at the world championships.

At the Toronto World Cup in May, Holowach finished in 20th and Sean McColl finished in 17th. But, at the Vail World Cup, both climbers were competing at the top of their game.

Jason Holowach competing at the Toronto World Cup.  Photo Will Johnson
Jason Holowach competing at the Toronto World Cup. Photo Will Johnson

Both Holowach and McColl made it into the finals, which was the first time two Canadians have ever competed in a world cup finals. In the end, McColl finished fifth and Holowach seventh. We caught up with Holowach shortly after Vail.

Gripped: How long have you been competing?
Holowach: This year marks the start of my 18th year of competing and my first bouldering world cup was in Hamilton in 2013.

What made you want to focus on world cups this year?
Last year in Munich at the World Championships I had a taste of what I’m capable of. This year I was able to stay healthy which is the biggest challenge for me some years, so with that and along with a shorter World Cup season I am able physically and financially to do so. This is something I have always wanted to do.

How was Toronto? Was it a warm-upish comp to get in the groove?
I guess you could say that, but at this level of competition you really have to be on point every step of the way. So to a certain extent it all comes down to your day and everyone else’s day.

What are world cup routes like?
Thats a tough question, they for the most part test you on everything. These days our Canadian setters are doing an amazing job of this so I feel like I was fairly well prepared. I think the strongest asset you need with these routes is the ability to stand on your feet.

What was it like getting into finals at Vail?
Making finals was surreal, I did’t believe it was true until the official results were posted. I reacted in a funny way once it was real though, I guess like any other competitor it was time to prepare for the next round.

The Vail World Cup men's finals competitors. Sean McColl is on the left end and Jason Holowach on the right end.
The Vail World Cup men’s finals competitors. Sean McColl is on the left end and Jason Holowach on the right end.

How were the routes in semis?
Semis routes suited me very well. The first one being a slab was all about standing on your feet, with a bit of coordination thrown in. I didn’t feel too comfortable on it my feet slipped once but I was able to figure out the high step and finish it off. The second one was almost similar in what the boulder was challenging, coordination but this time compression, all on a low angle again an area I’m fairly comfortable in. The bonus hold was awful but I was able to stay on somehow, that’s what got me through. The third was just hard. I feel there were multiple factors not in my favour with that one. I really wish I could have done that first move because the rest looked so fun. The fourth was just funky, but I really liked it. I’m not the strongest on steep so when I can use my legs that really helps. Once I got through the roof the bonus was not very good and the lock off to the sloper had to be really high and I came up just shy.

Has Sean McColl helped you along the way?
Sean is a great source of knowledge, his advice whether it’s about comp strategy or preparation always comes in handy.

Did you train hard this winter for the world cup?
This year I didn’t try to change things too much, my main focus was to stay healthy and train just enough. I think I was training harder on my training days because I was more motivated but I didn’t train longer or more days, so yea in a way I did.

Two Canadians in finals, first time. What was it like being in finals with Sean? Dream come true?
It really was, however going out first and Sean going out last didn’t allow us time to chat in ISO, so we couldn’t discuss the next one or pump each other up. Next time!

Sean McColl exits stage left as Jason Holowach walks on to attempt men's problem number four.  Photo Knut Rokne
Sean McColl exits stage left as Jason Holowach walks on to attempt men’s problem number four. Photo Knut Rokne

When you went out for men’s problem number one, what was the energy like at the venue?
The energy was crazy, I especially didn’t expect that because I was the new guy and the only one climbing, that was really motivating.

Had you tried a finals’ problems at a world cup before? Are they technically difficult or hard to read?
I had never climbed on the finals problems before, but I do think they tend to be a little easier than the semis routes. I would say they are more showy so they tend to have more jumps and turns and what not. The slab for example that one was very technical and hard to read, so they do have a little of everything still.

You finished seventh, you must be stoked about that? Looking back, would you change anything that you did?
Very excited about that. My goal this year was to make a finals and to do it in vail really surprised me. If I were to go back I think I would try problem four the way I knew they wanted us to do it, with the turn. I opted out of that beta because I was worried about my fingers, so I tried it in a more conservative manner.

You made history today, what was the feedback like from everyone?
It was great people were genuinely psyched. It was only a matter of time before someone joined Sean in a finals and I’m just glad it was me.

Are you off to China?
You know it! This year will be my first year that I will be able to do the whole circuit, I can’t wait. Now I think my first big challenge in China will be getting around and staying healthy.

Anything else you’d like to add about the comp?
I just want to say thank you to my fiance Courtney Ellis for the huge support, if only she could be with me in China.

Jason Holowach and fiance, Courteny
Jason Holowach and fiance, Courtney Ellis after the Vail World Cup.