Valley climbers reach peak at National champs
By: Justin Brisbane
| Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 06:00 am
The Bow Valley’s youth climbing dominance scaled to new heights on Sunday (May 20) as Banff’s Elise Sethna and Canmore’s Zach Watson both won national titles in Montreal.
Alison Vest of Canmore, competing for Canada for the first time after receiving her citizenship in March, finished second. All three qualified for the world championships in Singapore this August.
Sethna and her brother Eric were also selected to compete for Canada at a World Cup event in Vail, Colo.
The win was the fifth national title of Sethna’s career, as she won both the difficulty and speed titles. All of the local climbers commented on the difficulty of the routes, noting they were particularly challenging this year. Some strong climbers struggled through qualifiers.
“It feels really amazing. It’s my second last year of youth climbing. It’s sad it’s almost done. It’s been such a big part of my life, since I was nine years old,” Sethna said.
The favourite going into the competition, Sethna tried to stay focused on the wall. “There’s always pressure. It’s good to focus on the wall and not everyone around you,” she said.
“You gotta realize it’s you against the wall. You don’t get caught up in how others are doing.”
The chance to go to the world championships is part of a dream season for Sethna, who will continue her World Cup career over the summer. She’s established herself as one of the country’s up and coming stars.
For Watson, the win was his fourth Canadian title.
“It was pretty amazing. I was solid throughout and the semis were really hard. It’s pretty awesome because this was my last year of eligibility,” Watson said.
For Vest, the invitation to represent Canada is especially touching. She received her Canadian citizenship in March and for the first time in her life will represent her country at a World Championships after finishing second.
“It’s more of an honour. I’ve sat and watched the others get selected before so now it makes it more special,” Vest said. “I’m super excited about how I placed.”
The 16-year-old climber faced stiff competition.
“There was a lot of strong competition in my category. It was difficult, but everyone climbed really well and was supportive,” Vest said.
She’s competed since she was 11 years old, but always as an American citizen. She sped up her application so she could climb for Canada this year.
“I got a lot of people to help write letters to expedite the process and I really have to thank them,” Vest said.
She’s excited about travelling to Singapore for worlds, which will be a new experience.
“It’s definitely a different environment. It will be super hot with 100 per cent humidity. It will be great to experience different levels of climbing and meet the people,” Vest said.
The team is coached by Dung Nguyen, owner of the soon-to-close Vsion climbing gym. Nguyen will move to Montreal with his family and the youth climbers will need to find a new home for the team. A group called I Boulder is trying to keep the Canmore gym open as a co-op. The Multiplex gym isn’t scheduled to open until winter.