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Colwood teen reaching new heights in speed climbing

Second world championship competition up soon for Elena Moss
Elena Moss prepares for a sprint up the wall at the 2014 World Youth Championships. Moss

The premise may be simple – the fastest to the top of the wall wins – but the execution of speed climbing is on an entirely different level.

Elena Moss, a 16-year-old Colwood resident who placed seventh in her age bracket at last year’s world championships, competes with Team Canada soon at the 2015 worlds in Arco, Italy. Interviewed before she left, she tried to explain her sport.

“You want a lot of raw power,” she said, comparing speed climbing to running sprints on a track. The difference is there are only two lanes and the course is a 15-metre vertical wall with a slight overhang. As with sprinting, however, “you’re just racing the clock,” she said.

Her best time is 12.61 seconds.

“The route is exactly the same all over the world,” she said, adding the standards dictate everything down to how the hand-holds are attached to the wall. “It’s pretty precise.”

The road to Italy has been a long one. Moss qualified for the junior national team at the Canadian championships held in May at the Boulders Climbing Gym in Central Saanich. To qualify, competitors had to place in the top four and achieve a certain time standard. Moss placed second in her age group and third overall and was one of four Boulders members to make the team.

Boulders also facilitates a climbing academy with Stelly’s secondary, where Moss goes to school. So she not only travels out to Central Saanich to train, but also attends classes there.

She trains at the climbing gym two days on, one day off, but at times find herself spending six days a week at the gym. When she’s not training for an immediate competition, she works on her endurance and building muscle. This sometimes means doing up to 20 laps up and down the wall. Her training also includes a lot of work with weights and weighted pull-ups, with the goal of building a lot of muscle mass.

Her training is a little different with the world championships drawing nearer, she said. She’s doing between six to eight laps at a time on the wall, but focusing on making them as precise and efficient as possible.

Moss said the plan is to do some travelling with a few of her teammates, heading to places like Venice and Vienna before competing at the big event on Sept. 4. “We want to seize the opportunity.”

Speed climbing is a relatively new sport in Canada, but it is quite established across Europe. Moss expects this year’s competition to be fierce, especially as she has moved up an age category. While she admitted winning would be nice, she has a more modest goal in mind.

“I’m going with an open mind, but I’d like to be top 10 again.”