$1 million grant awarded to Central Saanich rock climbing gym to maintain national program

$1 million grant awarded to Central Saanich rock climbing gym to maintain national program

On the backside of Stelly’s Secondary School, some of the fastest climbers in the country turn out to train.

“Boulders Climbing Facility is a legend in the speed climbing world. It held the 2015 world cup in Canada here. It draws a bunch of the national team to this side of the country,” said Michael Finn-Henry. “But parts of it have been worn down.”

Starting in 1993 as a climbing wall off the school’s gymnasium, Boulders Climbing Gym opened to the public in 2005 and went on to host international events. That’s changed though, ever since climbing made its Olympic debut in 2020.

“The sport has changed a lot since we became an Olympic sport,” said Kimanda Jarzebiak, with Boulder Climbing Gym. “The middle part of our facility doesn’t have the terrain to support warm-up for national, or international competitions. And the national, international, or provincial athletes who move to Victoria to train with us.”

To keep the national athletes on the west coast and the gym relevant, the province is awarding the not-for-profit gym a $1 million grant.

“This is going to go a long way in helping you reach the goals that you want so that we can attract national athletes and international competitions,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Sport and Tourism.

For Finn-Henry, the 23-year-old who holds the current Canadian speed climbing record, this news is another boost to the Canadian climbing scene as a whole, especially as the team begins its path to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

“It’s really exciting for us especially as we have the national records being broken at each event now,” said Finn-Henry.

The move not only ensures the sport’s competitive future in Central Saanich but also instills hope for the next generation of climbers.

“You’re not necessarily competing against each other, you’re competing against the wall,” said Elise Olsen who is 15 and climbs at the gym two to five times a week.

“It’s really fun and most people are really nice,” said Jersie Kral, also 15.

Those in the climbing community say the million-dollar injection into the gym will make sure the skill already housed in this facility, stays.

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