Cranbrook ice climber Gord McArthur puts his game face on during a competition.

Cranbrook ice climber Gord McArthur puts his game face on during a competition.

Local climber savours Olympic experience

Getting ready to hit the climbing wall at the Sochi Games will be an enduring memory for Gord McArthur.

Getting ready to hit the climbing wall at the Sochi Games will be an enduring memory for Gord McArthur.

“That moment of looking up as I’m tying in my rope and seeing the crowd in front of me was wild. Totally wild,” said the Cranbrook native, who was in Russia to represent Canada in the demonstration of ice climbing during the Winter Olympics.

McArthur, along with the rest of the climbers in the UIAA world cup family, showcased their sport on the world’s biggest stage during the Games in a bid to get it included into the Olympic program.

“We didn’t compete for medals, but we had to put on a show everyday, just like the other athletes did. We had to perform at our best,” said McArthur. “We had hundreds and hundreds of people watching us, sometimes thousands, everyday, for two weeks.

“It was just an amazing experience. There were a lot of ups and downs, for sure, but the fact that we got to represent our sport in front of the world of sport—the people who celebrate sport—was a dream come true.”

Because ice climbing was a demonstration sport, it wasn’t a formal part of the program, but the UIAA—the governing body of competitive climbing—took over to run the show.

“As athletes we all got together and got creative in how we did do some of our performances, which was really cool. We became a really big family there, despite the language barriers,” said McArthur.

“There were athletes from Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Canada, US, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain.

“So there was a lot of different languages and we all just came together and became a family and a team and performed like that, which was one of the best experiences, and we got to share this amazing opportunity together.”

The structures included a 60-foot tower with three walls of ice, along with a main wall that competitors would climb all day, every day.

“Our venue was certainly a spectacle,” added McArthur. “People would stop by and go, ‘Whoa.'”

The Games were split between the sites in the city proper and the alpine events in the mountains. The ice climbing demonstrations were in the Olympic Park in the city, which is right on the coast of the Black Sea and temperatures rose high enough for a few days that the athletes were getting sunburned.

“We were sweating to death in our pants, in our long-sleeve shirts and long underwear thinking it’s going to be winter,” laughed McArthur.

He spent most of his days on the climbing wall, but there was also some free time here and there were he was able to visit Canada House—a gathering place for Canuck athletes, family and friends—as well as catch some other Olympic events, such as a men’s hockey game between the Czech Republic and Sweden.

“I met some of the figure skaters, met some of the hockey players, I met some luge and bobsledders, they’re all amazing athletes, not because they’re the best, but because they pour so much into their sport and I can relate to that,” McArthur said.

On the World Cup tour

Before and after the Olympics, McArthur was hard at work on the World Cup tour, criss-crossing Europe and Asia in six different competitions over two months.

After the world championship wrapped up in Ufa, Russia, McArthur finished the season in 13th overall.

“It was awesome,” McArthur said. “Last year I think I was 30-something overall, and I was pretty happy with that, but to jump 20-something spots in the rankings, I was really happy with that ending.”

The world championship followed two months of travelling with stops in South Korea, Romania, Switzerland, France and Russia, not to mention a competition in Italy that was cancelled due to an avalanche.

McArthur said heading to Ufa for one last competition after the Olympics was one of the toughest parts of the season.

“It was a long haul, because it was [something] every weekend, then the Olympics, then after the Olympic high, we still had to get our game faces back on and go to the world championships,” he said.

“That was probably the hardest part, because after the Olympics, everybody just wanted to go home.”

Not only were all the athletes mentally drained, but the Ufa climbing structure was difficult and there some tough variables that everyone had to adjust to, McArthur added.

But he persevered to finish 15th in the semifinals, which landed him into 13th overall to end the season.

“To get a ranking of 13th in the world—the world’s a big place, so I’m really happy with that result, there’s no question,” he said.

His improvement comes after many months of dedicated physical and mental training, which was apparent during one competition in Romania.

In the same competition a few years ago, McArthur watched a Russian climber—one of the best in the world—fall early in his qualifier, which wasted a minute of his five-minute time.

However, the competitor brushed himself off and tackled the route again, finishing it in less time than most of the others climbers who never fell off the structure.

When McArther got started in the Romanian qualifier this year, he fell early.

“I now had only four minutes left on the clock, but I climbed probably the best I’ve ever climbed and topped out,” he said. “I just flew through the whole route. It was flawless.

“To perform like that under that pressure, that was probably the one that stood out the most, because that’s the mental toughness that I’ve been working on.”

Though he is living out his dream of competing on the world cup circuit and at the Olympics, there are challenges that come along with it, some expected and others not so much.

For example, his climbing gear was stolen from his car during a stop in France.

He went grocery shopping after a training session and discovered his bag—which contained his gear and his cellphone—was missing.

“Instantly, I knew someone stole it,” McArthur said.

Climbing gear isn’t just generic equipment, it’s specific and modified by each individual user.

Offers poured in to use borrowed gear from his fellow competitors, but Petzl—one of his sponsors—was able to come through and provide the necessary equipment.

Other kinds of challenges were more familiar to him due to his years of experience on the world cup tour, like being away from home for so long and missing his wife and two young daughters.

“I can’t count on one hand how many times I looked at Expedia to get a flight home, even just to call it quits,” McArthur said. “Whether it be halfway though the season or at the end of the season, there were many occasions where I wanted to pack it in and come home.

“But at the same time, those are the occasions where you have to bear down and remind yourself why you’re there and remind yourself that those who support you are still supporting you.”

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read