What do you call it when you combine 31 athletes skilled with an axe and a saw, an annual city festival and a supportive community together? We call it STIHL Timbersports! This year the city of London hosted The STIHL Timbersports Canadian Championship 2016 during the city’s annual Ribfest. Add one children’s entertainer to this adrenaline-packed event and what do you get? A very diverse opportunity to learn and grow!
And that’s what I did this past weekend. Learned all about an amazing sport I only vaguely knew existed; met a group of dedicated athletes and their supporters, and grew in my understanding of commitment and determination.
This year’s STIHL’s Timbersports Canadian Championship was a very exciting one, showcasing many “firsts” for the sport. The first woman to host the STIHL Timbersports competition, TV personality Sabrina Pierson; the first time the event has been hosted at Ribfest in London, Ontario; and the first Timbersports event to have a children’s entertainer/hip hop performer co-host.
Now, if you had asked me to describe a STIHL Timbersports event prior to this, I would have looked at you with confusion on my face and asked the next question; What is Timbersports?
The STIHL Timbersports Series is a series of woodsman/woman or wood chopping competitions where the athletes compete in the use of axes and saws in manners typical for lumberjacks. It was founded in 1985 and currently includes six different disciplines, with both professional and collegiate divisions. (Please see STIHL Timbersports About page for a brief history of Timbersports.)
This multi-disciplined sport requires each competitor to go all out to prove his or her athletic ability in every way. Timbersports consists of 6 disciplines that take many years to master.
The Standing Block Chop which simulates the felling of a tree.
The Stock Saw which involves first warming the saw then, on a signal, the competitor picks up the saw, cuts into the wood and makes 2 discs or “Cookies” of a particular thickness.
The Underhand Chop involves having the competitor stand on a horizontal block of wood, hacking away at the block until it is separated in the middle.
The Single Buck, better known as the “Misery Whip” requires the competitor to make one cut with a crosscut saw. This is a timed event and ends when the block is severed.
The Springboard, one of the most intense events in my mind, calls for the athletes to use precision and accuracy. First, each competitor chops a “V” into the tree trunk and then inserts the springboard into the “V”. He or she jumps onto the springboard and proceeds to chop through a block of wood which is 9ft from the ground.
The Hot Saw entails the use of extremely powerful chainsaws to cut through an 18″ diameter trunk as fast they can.
About a month ago I received a call from Shawna Kwan, owner of Elan Dance Arts in London to let me know that she had referred me to a promoter of an event called STIHL Timbersports. Shawna always takes the time to highlight the talents of others. She has been instrumental in getting me being involved in the community and community events and I appreciate that about her.
This conversation was followed by a phone call from the executive producer of STIHL Timbersports Canada himself, Gerry Rozo. As much as I was honoured to be asked to be part of such a great event, I found myself doubting my ability to perform to the caliber of the competition.
I had never heard of Timbersports and all I could think was, “What can I contribute to the event not knowing the lingo?”. Those thoughts were quickly weakened by the encouragement of Gerry, Gail Kenworthy, Kerry Elliot and Sabrina Pierson. They believed they had chosen the right person to get the crowd excited about STIHL Timbersports at Ribfest. And because of their belief in me, I rose to the challenge.
Sabrina, the official host for the competition, went the extra mile and met with me to go over the ins and outs of the championship. By helping me achieve my goals Sabrina was also fulfilling a dream of her own – to become the first woman to host the STIHL Timbersports Canadian Championship. To have such a heavy responsibility on her shoulders and take the time to help someone else was absolutely inspiring!
I devoted many hours to studying the sport hoping to find the best way to co-host the event and highlight the amazing athletes. During this time I became inspired by the hard work and determination of the entire organization. STIHL Timbersports has built a team filled with people who train to be their best while at the same time bringing the community together and promoting other companies which are also doing great things in their communities.
The Women’s Pro Division, only in its 3rd year of Championship Competition in Canada, is shedding light on the women of Timbersports in Canada and they are inspiring to watch. During the Women’s Pro Division Championship 15-year-old Allison Briscoe showed great confidence and exhibited wisdom beyond her years. I watched as Anita Jezowski, Jessie Swinamer and Stephanie Naud remained focused and determined during their respective competitions. Each woman’s efforts gave testament to their years of training and the time and energy they have given to master their craft.
Even during the Championship ceremony, Caitlin Carroll, STIHL Timbrsports Canadian Champion in the Women’s Pro Division shared the first place podium with her friend and colleague, Janet Walker, the 2015 Canadian Champion. It was a tough loss for the former Champion, but you would never know it by the joy she expressed over the new champion and her work ethic the next day helping her friends in the Men’s Pro Division.
Stephanie Naud 3rd place Catlin Carroll and Janet Walker share the 1st place podium at the STIHL Timbersports Canadian Championship in the Women’s Division.
The 7 competitors in the Rookie Division never seemed to show that they were new to the Competition, as their strength and attitude in every event was top notch! George Williams from Fredericton, NB chopped and saw his way to the STIHL Timbersports Rookie Championship title. The 22-year-old gave it his all and it paid off.
George Williams the 2016 STIHL Timbersports Canadian Rookie Champion.
The last 3 days of the competition were dedicated to the Men’s Pro Division – 19 athletes from across Canada, spent many hours giving the crowds in London something to talk about. The driving blows of the axe, the precise technique and the control required for each discipline, and concentration required for the saw, made for one intense, adrenalin-filled competition.
Men who have been involved in Timbersports for many years competed side-by-side with the new blood – giving them something to work for. Wayne Paulsen, Rod Cumberland, Donald Lambert, Gaston Duperre and Karl Bischoff were also very patient with me as I interviewed them after each event. I was not quite sure which were the “right” questions to ask, having no previous experience with Timbersports, but these were true gentlemen who were both patient and kind as I learned the ropes. Each took the time, despite their fatigue, to explain in detail what happened during their “heat”, what worked for them and what didn’t work in their favour during the competition.
Nathan Cumberland, the 2015 Rookie World Champion and his brother Ben Cumberland, the 2016 Rookie World Champion not only displayed their extreme gift for the sport but their strong faith in God. Nathan in particular always gave credit to both his father, Rod Cumberland, for the years of training as well as his “Heavenly father” for giving him the strength to “finish strong”.
Scott Read, a coach as well as a competitor, always had an attitude of optimism and continued to encourage others throughout the competition. Read was gracious enough to allow me to tape a video (check out my Instagram!) offering some inspiring advice for the students I work with.
Geoff Larkin, Burlin Nickerson, Nick Hall and Trevor Schofield were always ready to give their all in every discipline despite the heat and sometimes rain during such intense competition. When asked what it takes to do well in every event Nick Russell said that he believes that it takes focus and that he will visualize what he is going to do before executing the move.
Every athlete had amazing insight as to what helps them achieve their goals. Ryan McIntyre offered a refreshing reminder to be grateful to the people who helped you get to where you are. He also said that when he’s competing it’s a race against the clock and that he likes to look at it as he is competing with himself; always try to do better than his last heat.
The London crowd was very excited about new STIHL Timbersports competitor local man,
Clarke Ellah. Fans would gather closer to the stage after every event to get a “Cookie” from the Single Buck, Hot Saw, and Stock Saw events. After intense battles with the wood firefighter, Marcel Dupuis who was the 2015 Canadian Champion, Cecil Starr the 2014 Silver Medalist in the World Championship and Mitch Hewitt, four-time Canadian Champion, would sign the cookies and give them to adoring fans.
In the end, it was Stirling “The Ginga Ninja” Hart of Vancouver, BC who would win the Canadian Championship. Not only is Hart an amazing competitor, he always had time to talk, laugh and joke around throughout the weekend. Even when the STIHL Timbersport Championship ceremony was rained out, he was not put out when we all poured champagne over his head in a small tent with his colleges surrounding him. To him, it was just the honour of being able to hold the Peter Colliver Memorial Trophy and represent it well!
This sport no doubt takes mental focus, strength and perfect handling of your gear. I watched one athlete after another take the stage with confidence and determination. With every swing of the axe, you could imagine the hours of training, the preparation and the sacrifices that were made in order to get to the Championship. Hart, and his fellow competitors would have spent hours fundraising and talking with people who may or may not fully understand the risks, the dedication or the skill it takes to be a competitor of this caliber.
Every athlete I had the opportunity to speak with gave me more reason to take my job more seriously. To do what it takes to put in the time and technique required to be my very best for my audience.
Timbersports is very different from being a children’s entertainer I know, but there are many things, transferable skills, that I learned this past weekend – skills and knowledge that I can teach to young people. Things they will be able to be to develop in their own lives whether they are an athlete or not.
1.”Throw your whole body into it!”
There were athletes who arrived for their Canadian Championship the night before their event. They were tired, a bit jet lagged because of time differences traveling across the country, but they did not allow the weariness or busyness of the day to slow down their momentum or distract them from their goals. Many have spent years working on their craft and they did not allow fatigue, heat, or rain, stop them from achieving their goals. I had the honour to witness their hard work and determination pay off.
Sometimes when we are pursuing our dreams we make excuses for why we can’t give it our all…..no time, family trouble, financial hardship, lack of support, etc. I am not saying that these reasons are not legit but if we allow them to be at the forefront of our thinking and overshadow our goals of being our best, we will always find a reason to let that dream go.
2. Stay focused
Know what you want to accomplish and stick to the plan. Athletes in their interviews mentioned that when they were competing they do not look at the other competitor to see how they are doing. They are focused on what they are doing. By keeping their focus on their own challenge instead of worrying about how the competition was doing they weren’t distracted from their goal of winning.
3. Get through the tough stuff
The road is not always easy or what you anticipated. The Timbersports athletes had some tough blocks of wood they were not expecting to have to attack but they kept on chopping. Life can be like that – you can be faced with a situation you weren’t expecting, a lot tougher than what you’re used to when that happens, follow the example of the Timbersports athletes – dig deep and keep chopping.
4. Surround yourself with good people
Iron sharpens iron as these athletes sharpen one another – pushing each other to better themselves every time they compete. When you surround yourself with those who encourage and challenge you you both become sharper.
The Timbersports family is comprised of dedicated individuals and I felt so blessed to have been welcomed into the fold. Thank you to Greg Quigg, President of STIHL Canada, for creating such an amazing event!
The STIHL Timbersports Series and Canadian Championship was surrounded by many friends and supporters. A big shout-out to all these outstanding supporters –
The Big Green Egg really helped get the crowd excited about grilling and having the support
you need to make a great meal outdoors.
Wood on Steel who supplied wonderful furniture as prizes
Timber Watches, offering beautiful and unique timepieces which helped all of us keep time at the event.
Tourism London always highlights the great things about the city
From the photographers, stage crew, the STIHL Timber-Pack dancers, the singer of the national anthem, Shelly Rastin, and the amazing performance by Kelly Channer Band the STIHL Timbersports Canadian Championship of 2016 was a true community effort. This weekend has fortified my belief that it takes more than one person to make a dream materialize.
Together we can change the world!
Photo credit for athletes’ individual pictures – STIHL Timbersports