2013 was an amazing year for STIHL TIMBERSPORTS in Canada with a new competitive format, more competitions across the country and the return of the show to national television on TSN. We had an amazing season in collaboration with the Maritime Lumberjack Association (MLA) representing the east and the Canadian Logger Sports Association (CANLOG) representing the west with over 20 official competitions across the country.
The Canadian Team was selected at the Canadian Championship in Chase, BC in July with Mitch Hewitt, Donald Lambert, JP Mercier, Marcel Dupuis and Canadian Rookie Champion Nathan Cumberland. The team met in London on Friday October 18th for the very first Team Canada Training Camp in preparation for the World Championship. The team bonded very well over a carefully planned schedule that included gym workouts and chopping practices. This weekend gave the team an opportunity to get to know each other and train on different strategies to be used in competition. In the past, the team was flown directly to the competition and had no time to prepare and see how they "fit" as a team. But this year, the team gained confidence and flew to Germany with the goal of improving 2012's performance, when we finished in 6th place and to finish heats under 60 seconds, in order to be competitive with the strongest nations in the world.
The team landed in Stuttgart, Germany on Wednesday October 22nd and immediately got into World Championship mode. The team attended an invitation from STIHL and Mercedes Benz to visit the Mercedes Benz Museum and to meet with Canadian DTM driver Robert Wickens, who gave the team a tour of the museum followed by TV cameras that were capturing footage for the Canadian TSN show. After a great visit and a lunch, the team took the rest of the day off to recover from the trip and to adjust to the local time.
Thursday morning, the team traveled 2 hours to Mellrichstadt to the German STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Training Centre where they had their last training session before the championship. The team worked on individual disciplines and they gave each other feedback and had a good time. The friendship that grew within the group was a great bonus for STS in Canada, as the novice competitors where able to ask questions and learn from experienced veterans like Mitch Hewitt and JP Mercier. After a 3 hour session, the team was ready and drove back to Stuttgart where a photo shoot and session with the press was waiting.
Friday morning, championship day, the team enjoyed a great breakfast together at the hotel, then made its official appearance at the Porsche Arena and settled in the Athletes lounge in the section assigned for the team identified with a Canadian flag. After a long morning of meetings, wood draws and wood preparation, the moment of truth was upon us: the time trial. In this time trial, nations competed in a race against time in order to get the lowest possible time and get the best seeding in the main draw. Only 12 nations out of 23 had the opportunity to qualify into the main round. The Canadian Team was ready; the boys had the team goal clear in mind and after the team cheer – 1,2,3, TEAM, 1,2,3, WIN! - they went off to battle. The team finished the heat with a time of 1:04 min which placed them second in the main draw and gave them a comfortable path into the semi-final round after beating Italy and Sweden in the first two rounds. In the semi-final, Canada went against the 2012 silver medalists, Team USA. After a great race, Canada lost the ticket to the final round and had to face Australia for 3rd – 4th place round after they lost to New Zealand. The heat with Australia was one of the closest races ever seen in a world championship. Both teams finished their stock saw at the same time and Marcel Dupuis, after an inspired performance, was able to finish ahead of Lawrence O'Toole, one of the best athletes in the world, in underhand. After single buck, Canada was still ahead by a second. Then it was all up to Canadian Champion Mitch Hewitt who chopped his standing block with the very last amount of energy left in him and severed his block ahead of Brad Delosa from Australia. Unfortunately, Mitch's block didn't sever completely with a tiny piece still holding from the block and in the time that it took him to take a half-stroke back to finish it, Australia's Brad Delosa finished his standing block and got Australia the spot on the podium. The Team World Championship ended with Australia in third place, USA again as a silver medalist and New Zealand one more time defending their title as World Champions.
The results for Canada were extremely positive as we went from an early elimination in the second round of competition in Norway 2012 to being a serious contender for the title in Stuttgart 2013. Having a team that worked together and supported each other throughout the whole experience gave each athlete the confidence and commitment to the team that they needed for an inspired performance. In 2012, Canada was nowhere close to a podium finish. But in 2013, we were a half second away from making this goal a reality.
With the team competition behind, Mitch Hewitt now had his mind on the singles World Championship where athletes were facing a new competition format, with three rounds where the bottom athletes were eliminated after each round. The first round featured single buck, standing block chop and underhand chop. Mitch had no problem qualifying into the second round, where only the top 10 made it out of the starting 14 athletes. In the second round, Mitch got to show his dominance in springboard by taking first place, which helped him earn valuable points towards qualifying into the final round, where only the top 6 athletes moved through. His single buck performance was decent and good enough to place him 6th in the overall and qualifying him into the final round – the hot saw. Mitch's hot saw round was good, but unfortunately he dropped a spot from his 5th place finish in Norway 2012, finishing 6th place in Stuttgart.
Stuttgart 2013 was a very positive experience for STS in Canada, not only because of the great performance in the Team championship, but also because of the amazing performance our Canadian Rookie Champion Nathan Cumberland had in the International Rookie Team. Nathan competed with the top European rookies from Austria, Czech Republic, Romania and the US Rookie Champion. Nathan showed his dominance in most events and recorded times that were half of his teammates', especially in both chopping disciplines. The development of the Rookie Division this year is a step in the right direction. Investing in upcoming talent will keep our country going strong for many years to come at the world championship level.
We would like to thank the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Canadian Series family, the MLA and CANLOG, the athletes, judges, volunteers, fans and families who support our athletes and go to every event. We would also like to thank our sponsors Under Armour, Barbegazi Fest, London Tourism, The Covent Garden Market and GoodLife Fitness.
The 2014 season is already starting to heat up and it is guaranteed to be full of surprises! Follow the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Canadian Series on www.stihl-timbersports.ca !