Vancouver Island climber off to Olympic qualifier

Cowichan’s Brennan Doyle competing for Pan Am Championship in Los Angeles

Cowichan climber Brennan Doyle is off to the Pan Am championships, a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Brielle Zacharias photo)

Duncan’s Brennan Doyle has a shot next week to qualify as one of the first athletes to compete in sport climbing at the Olympic Games.

Climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer, and if all goes right for Doyle at the Pan American Championships in Los Angeles, he could be among those to make history.

Doyle leaves on Saturday for California, and the Pan Am Championship runs for a week starting Tuesday. Unlike most climbing events, which separate the three disciplines of bouldering, lead and speed, the Olympics and their qualifying events combine all three, with the best overall athlete finishing first.

“I haven’t done too many events like it,” Doyle notes. “There’s usually just one local competition like that. I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortable. I’d say it’s unfamiliar. It will be interesting to see how it goes.”

Speed is Doyle’s best discipline, and the one that actually qualified him for Pan Ams, but bouldering is his favourite.

There will be 22 male competitors in L.A., with just one spot in the Olympics on the line. Most of the others are on the World Cup circuit, but Doyle has yet to make his World Cup debut. He has competed in the Youth World Championships, placing 14th in speed and 39th in bouldering in the A division in 2019, but this will be his first adult event. He admits he’s “a little bit” nervous, but that’s not unusual.

“I don’t think I’m ever not nervous,” he says. “I don’t think the level of the event changes how not-nervous I am for it.”

Doyle calls Duncan home, but he spends most of the week in Victoria where he is in Grade 11 at the Canadian Sports School. That consists of classes in the morning at Belmont Secondary in Langford as part of the Canadian Sport School, and afternoons at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence on the Camosun College campus in the afternoon for strength training and a study block.

While his training doesn’t focus specifically on climbing, the sports focus is definitely helpful. And it’s also useful to be closer to facilities like Boulders Climbing Gym and BoulderHouse Climbing.

“I’m in Victoria already,” he points out. “And that’s where I trained anyway last year, so it’s way faster to get there.”

Doyle is excited about the Pan Am championships and a chance to compete in the Olympics, but he’s not expecting a victory.

“It’s not realistic for me to win,” he says. “My goal is to make the finals, which would put me in the top eight. But obviously anything can happen, so I’m not going to rule it out.”

He wouldn’t turn down the opportunity, but the Olympics aren’t the be-all, end-all for Doyle.

“For some people, it’s their one main goal,” he said. “It would be super cool to go, but I’m not too worried about it. I just want to keep getting better and having fun.”

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