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Kiwis crowned world tree climbing champs

4 August 2011

Kiwis crowned world tree climbing champs

New Zealanders can add competitive tree climbing to the list of sports at which they excel on the world stage, following the International Tree Climbing Championships (ITCC) held last week in Parramatta, New South Wales. Kiwi competitors brought home the men’s and women’s world titles, seeing off competition from the USA, Europe, Australia and beyond.

The sport has its origins in professional arboriculture, with most competitors being practicing tree surgeons. The format is similar in concept to the pentathlon in track and field, with five separate disciplines giving competitors a cumulative points score.

The top scoring climbers then go on to compete in a “climb-off” (known as the Master’s Event) in a particularly challenging tree to decide the final placings.

New Zealand’s success continues our tradition of excellence in sports that have their origin in the work environment, such as shearing and wood-chopping.

New Zealand was represented by Chrissy Spence, (current New Zealand Women’s) champion), Scott Forrest (current New Zealand Men’s champion) and James Kilpatrick (the current Asia-Pacific champion). Chrissy and Scott won the women’s and men’s titles respectively, while James won the Footlock event – a timed 15 metre ascent up a free-hanging rope. James set a new world record in this event en route to winning the overall men’s title in the recent Asia-Pacific Championship in Singapore. This is a third world title for Chrissy, who also won in 2005 and 2007. Scott’s previous highest placing was second in 2008. James’ world record compliments that of compatriot Nicky Ward-Allen, who has held the women’s record since 2009. This was held for a time by yet another Kiwi, Elena O’Neil (another former world champion).

This is New Zealand’s tree climbers’ best year ever, according to New Zealand Arboricultural Association President, Rick Mexted.

“We had lofty expectations this year, and those expectations have been met – Scott, Chrissy and James did remarkably well,” says Mr. Mexted. “It’s a cut-throat sport that requires skill, agility, courage and extreme fitness.”

As it transpired Forrest won in one of the closest Master’s climbs of recent times – his margin just 0.67 points. “We all knew it was going to be close, we were ecstatic when the results were read out,” adds Mexted.

Spence won by a far more comfortable margin to secure her third world ITCC title.

“It’s fantastic!” says Mexted, “We’ve got the two best climbers in the world; New Zealand won the chapter title [where preliminary results for men and women are combined] and we also hold the men’s and women’s world record for the Footlock.

“It shows that our competitions are the breeding grounds of champions and provide members of the arboricultural and climbing communities the opportunity to meet, compete and share their technical know-how.”

The New Zealand tree climbing community is now looking forward to the National Championship – run by the New Zealand Arboricultural Association –scheduled for Queen Elizabeth Park, Masterton on 22 and 23 October 2011.

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Scott Forrest – World Tree Climbing Champion and New Zealand Men’s Champion


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