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Sean McColl is Going for the Paris Olympics

Recovering from a shoulder surgery, McColl talks about what he needs to do to make the Olympics, and about becoming MEC's newest ambassador

Sean McColl is Canada’s most decorated competition climber with over 20 years of international events behind him and nearly 40 World Cup medals. He’s currently preparing for what might be his most important competition season to date, as he focuses on qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics. And it was just announced that McColl is Mountain Equipment Company’s (MEC) newest ambassador.

Unlike years past, this one presents new challenges, as McColl is recovering from surgery after suffering a type 5 Superior Labral Anterior Posterior (SLAP) tear of his right shoulder.  “Do your exercises, be diligent, and hope for the best,” McColl said about his recovery. “You can’t rush. I’m trying to do more and more crazy moves on it. The direction that competition climbing is going, especially bouldering, you get put in really weird situations, some which is hard on your shoulders.”

While McColl was known for having some of the strongest shoulders on the circuit, he knows he needs to ease back to difficult climbing. “I’m happy it’s coming together and it’s now mostly in my mind,” he said. “If my shoulder comes out again, basically my dreams for Paris will be done.” He’s been busy training every move imaginable, and only has a few left that he hasn’t done, including a sideways dyno to the right, onto his recovering shoulder.

McColl finished in 17th at the Tokyo Olympics and decided to go for the Paris Olympics after learning that Speed will be in a different category than Boulder and Lead. To qualify for the 2024 Games won’t be easy and comes down to earning points during the World Cup season. “I’m going back as slow as I can,” said McColl. “My timeline is precise as to what I need to do to get into the Olympics. to get to that qualifying stage.”

Sean McColl in Vail, 2018. Photo courtesy of IFSC

McColl first won the gold medal in lead climbing in his age group at the 2002, 2003 and 2004 Youth World Championships. In 2006, he won in both the lead and speed climbing categories. He’s competed in well over 100 internationals comps. In 2012, he made 10 podium finishes at major climbing comps. In May 2013, McColl earned his first Bouldering World Cup win at an event in Log Dragomer.

“All of the Word Cups get you points based on your result,” McColl said about the upcoming season. “Those points will give you a ranking in the cumulative world ranking. And that’s what gets you invited to the Pan American Championships and the Olympic Qualifier Series – the OQS.” Climbers need to qualify for the OQS if they want to compete in the Olympics. The OQS is a series of three comps in three cities around the world. The top climbers from those comps will head to the Olympics.

“Those still aren’t for another year, but you have to qualify for those events, which is why I have to compete this year,” McColl said. “Not sure when I’ll start my season, but when I do I’ll just hammer and do as many as I can. I really like the series and doing lots of comps in a row. My diet is better, my training is better, my recovery is better.”

In 2014, McColl competed for Team Europe in American Ninja Warrior, USA vs The World, and led his team to victory. In 2014 and 2016, he won the Combined World Cup, while in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 he ranked second in the Combined World Cup. He’ll be one of the most experienced climbers competing to make the Olympics, and he’s excited to be working with MEC as he continues to work toward his second Olympics.

McColl and MEC go way back to his earliest climbing days, as he worked in the North Vancouver location as a teenager for around five years. He worked during the school year to save money so that he could travel to Europe to compete. “It’s come full circle for me and I’m excited about the partnership,” he said.

The World Cup season kicks off on April 21, and while McColl won’t be competing, he’ll surely be watching his fellow Canadian teammates as they go head to head with some of the best climbers in the world. Be sure to keep an eye on McColl, as it won’t be long now before his season begins.