Athletes begin the climb in Lethbridge to 2020 Olympics

Climbers compete in the Lethbridge bouldering competition on Oct. 19, 2019.
Climbers compete in the Lethbridge bouldering competition on Oct. 19, 2019. Jasmine Bala / Global News

Some climbers in Western Canada have already started the long climb to the top by participating in a Lethbridge bouldering competition — all with the same end goal in mind: Tokyo 2020.

The Alberta Climbing Association Regional Competition kicked off the 2019 bouldering season on Saturday, with 102 athletes participating from across the province, Saskatchewan and B.C.

“The athletes that are climbing today, I mean some of them have been at this their entire lives,” said Randy Prete, owner of Coulee Climbing, “and could compete with climbers from all over the world.”

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In local competitions like this, the climbers compete to earn rankings within the ACA that will qualify them to compete provincially. From there, they can work their way up to national competitions, and then move on to competing on the international scale in the Climbing World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics.

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“[This] is the first competition of the year,” said Stephen Chenier, an elite team member of the Calgary Climbing Centre.

“Obviously, with the end game being the Olympics, it’s a good start so far… It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.”

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Tokyo 2020 will mark the first time rock climbing — bouldering, rope and speed — is featured in the Olympics.

“It’s cool to be part of it,” said Prete.

“In Lethbridge, there’s always been a tight group of lifetime climbers and the support has evolved somewhat slowly over the past 20 some odd years, but the last 10 years have seen a lot more interest [and] a lot more people getting into it.”

Athletes are judged on their progression through each boulder, which is the set path they have to climb up the wall. Each boulder is unique with different challenges, Prete added, and whoever tops the most boulders in the fewest attempts gets the highest points.

READ MORE: Lethbridge rock climber taking talent to new heights

“Some of them require incredible strength, other ones require just acrobatic ability or balance,” he said. “All of them require a lot of experience in climbing and a ton of training.”