Local climber gets the nod for Sochi Games

Gord McArthur, who has been representing Canada on the World Cup circuit, will take his sport to the Olympic level.

Gord McArthur climbs his route during a competition in Romania on the IUIAA Ice Climbing World Cup circuit last week.

Gord McArthur climbs his route during a competition in Romania on the IUIAA Ice Climbing World Cup circuit last week.

For Cranbrook climber Gord McArthur, it’s a dream come true.

The local climbing athlete got the nod from Alpine Club of Canada on Tuesday morning, as the national mountaineering body punched his ticket to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games to compete in ice climbing, which will be a demonstration sport.

“Now that it’s official, I’m very keen to share that news and it’s pretty cool. I’m psyched that I’m going to the Olympics.”

The announcement came right in the middle of his efforts in the World Cup circuit, as part of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, known by it’s French acronym UIAA.

McArthur has spent the last month jet-setting around Europe to compete in World Cup events in Italy, Romania, Switzerland and France.

“I spent the entire summer training to get ready for the World Cup of Ice Climbing competition tour, which started in January,” said McArthur. “…A total whirlwind, I came back in between two of them, so just turned upside down from jet lag, but you got to push through it.”

McArthur has been back in town for the last week, but jets off again to Russia in another seven days for his final competition of the World Cup circuit this year.

It’s a routine he’s gotten used to over the last three years he’s competed in the World Cup circuit, as his results have steadily improved to the point where the Alpine Club of Canada gave him a spot to represent the the country in Sochi.

Currently, McArthur is sitting 41st overall in the UIAA standings, but he’ll look to climb up the ladder in Kirov, Russia, when the final competition wraps up the 2013 tour.

After that, all focus turns to Sochi.

While McArthur has noticed improvements in his results and his physical strength, he’s also found another area of his climbing to work on.

“The results were good, but what I noticed is that the same thing kept happening over and over,” said McArthur. “I was very consistent about not remembering certain things in the heat of the moment. When it came down to getting tired, it’s like my brain would shut off and I would forget things that I know very well.”

“That’s when we discovered that my mental state is being hindered by anxiety in the heat of the moment. I mean, there shouldn’t be, but there is. When you have anxiety in the heat of the moment, what happens is, it basically cuts off blood flow and basically ruins you.”

He’s enlisted some pretty respectable resources to help him get over the block.

When Felix Baumgartner did his historic jump from a capsule 39 kilometres into the Earth’s atmosphere a few months ago, it was the culmination of three years of preparation.

Alongside Baumgartner was Dr. Michael Gervais, a sports psychologist who helped the daredevil deal with the stress of his jump.

“When he [Baumgartner] started the whole thing, he couldn’t spend more than one minute in his space suit, he freaked out, claustrophobic. So they hired Dr. Gervais and obviously it worked out well,” said McArthur.

The climber worked a few connections and managed to get the doctor on the phone.

“What’s holding me back is my mental game. I struggle mentally in the heat of the moment, so I have a lot of ideas on how to sort through that,” McArthur continued.

“You can count on an awesome result next year, because that’s the missing link for me now. I’m just as strong as the Russians now, I can compete with them, but my mental game is holding me back.”

However, he’s got a year to prepare for the Sochi Games, and he’ll be doing all kinds of physical and mental training to prepare for the event.

McArthur built a climbing shed in his backyard a few years ago, complete with grips and holds, and that project has only expanded with ever growing additions.

He also draws from a well of support that includes his wife and two young daughters, along with local businesses in the community. Businesses such as High Country Sports, East Kootenay Credit Union, Hot Shots Cafe, New Dawn Developments, The Bedroom Furniture, Living Stones Developments and Sun Life Financial have pitched in to help him with his climbing.

“Without them, I’d be sunk,” McArthur said.

Even though athletes are driven to do well in competition, it’s also important to keep a little perspective, he added.

“Results don’t define you and you need to hold onto that in competitive sports and you need to hold onto that at a high level, because it can ruin you,” McArthur said.