Ice Climbing At The Olympics. Insider’s Perspective From ‘World Stage’ In Sochi

All I could do was smile. Nine months ago I received an invitation to represent Canada “at” the Olympics, to climb and showcase our competitive sport. And there I was doing it.

To pull something like this off, I can’t even imagine the lengths to which certain “ambassadors” had to go to. But the fact is, our Olympic family did it. Our job was clear: crush it. Show it off. Make it awesome. Ice climbing in tropic temps. Gymnastic movement. Vodka (Russians always have vodka on hand).

Our Olympic family came together and made it happen.

Some of the crew spent all night packing ice (shipped over from the hockey arena) making sure the three ice walls were in tip top shape. Some athletes belayed or outfitted harnesses, helmets and ice boots all day.

It was a team effort and an amazing team effort at that. These people will forever be remembered as “game changers,” a group of true ambassadors that took a risk and came through victoriously. I was honored to be a part of this movement.

There were ice walls and lead walls, two perfect displays of what our competition world looks like. Every day, athletes from each discipline, speed climbing and technical lead climbing, would climb and showcase what “our world” looks like. From 9am to 8pm, there was no shortage of excitement.

In fact, there was no shortage of excited people. So many questions, so much anticipation, and so many smiling faces, the energy was electric. It didn’t matter from what country, or what language was spoken, there was common ground — a simple facial gesture that was understood through any barrier. When someone was smiling, we all knew what he or she was thinking: That this was awesome in every way.

At any given time, broadcast stations would just show up wanting to cover the event. From countries spread across the planet, ice climbing was on the evening news.

And then the Korean Olympic committee turned up. in 2018, Pheyongchang, Korea, will host the Olympics.There was no shortage of hope from them. Out of everything they said, what stuck with all of us were the words, “we want this in 2018 as a medal sport.”

Our jaws dropped…and remained dropped from there on. There are more details about this, specifically about the process of induction, but best not say anything more about that as I don’t want to present any false ideas. But what I can say is that the IOC is fully aware of the impact of our Olympic venue and the excitement it drew.

The face of the Olympics is adapting to new sports, fan favorites if you will. Extreme sports are breaking down the walls of the Olympic rings. This year alone, the “extreme sports” drew some of the biggest crowds. Ice climbing is on the doorstep. And there is a lot of hope going into 2018.

My experience in Sochi was memorable to say the least. Walking through the Olympic park, performing in the Olympic park, as a Canadian, a part of team Canada along side two other Canadians (Nathan Kutcher and Jen Olson), as an ambassador for competitive ice climbing… I’ll never forget it.

We broke barriers and formed bonds and left a real imprint on the Olympic games that I hope will carry forward to future events.

Gordon McArthur

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Sean McCoy
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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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