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2023 April - Canadian National Grip Sport Championships - Eric Roussin

Eric Roussin

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This past Saturday I hosted the Canadian National Grip Sport Championships at Altitude Climbing Gym in Ottawa. It proved to be the biggest Nationals I’ve organized to date, with 24 athletes turning out to take part. There was a good mix of competitors spread across the three men’s weight classes, three masters competitors, and five women. In over 10 years of hosting grip contests, I had never had more than three women enter, so this was great! And it was a first grip contest for half of the athletes.

Because the contest was promoted by Altitude, it attracted several climbers, most of whom were lightweights. The 83 kg class proved to be the biggest class – another first. But the contest also drew a few strongman competitors who helped fill out the 105 and 105+ kg classes.

Having competed in the Spring Clench contest in Calgary just two weeks ago, and having only done three training sessions in between, I wasn’t sure what shape I’d be in for this contest. But, I was hopeful that I would be okay. 

The first event was 20 mm block set grippers. I hardly touched grippers during the pandemic and only trained with a dynamometer in recent months to prepare for the Spring Clench. So I wasn’t expecting much. I managed a 154 close and was quite happy with this result. I expected Zach Ebel, my training partner, to do well in this event because I knew he could close tougher grippers than me. He managed a close of 160. But first-time competitor and strongman Rob Notarianni had the top close of the group, with a 162. He easily shut it and I think he could have done more. But, because reverse strongman scoring was used for the contest, he was satisfied to stop there and save himself for the other events. Yves Gravelle, who competed in his first grip sport contest since 2021 and not having trained for the contest, had the top close in the lightweight class with a 148.

The second event was the 2 3/8” Napalm’s Nightmare (two hands). This is one of my better lifts, so I expected to do well. But I was surprised to see just how many lifters also do well. Get this: six competitors had successful lifts of 410 lbs! This is just unheard of! The weight increments for this event were 7.5-kilo jumps. I was the only competitor to successfully make the next weight (427 lbs). Normally, I’m strategic in these situations – I would be satisfied with the event win and not attempt higher increments. But I felt good, so I decided to try to beat my 105-kg weight class record. 455 was loaded. I lifted the weight off the ground, got it up about 4”, but then had to put it down. Close, but no cigar. By the way, Yves was one of the competitors to lift 410 lbs. I have a feeling that this 74-kg class record will stand for a while…

The 3”x4” Saxon bar was next. The big story in this event was Rob McMurren. Rob was a regular competitor in my contests before the pandemic. This was his first time back and he was leaner and stronger than ever. He dominated this event. All of his lifts were done with apparent ease. Though I tied him on the scoresheet, I feel we was the stronger man. We were both successful with our lifts of 245, but he almost locked out 257 and I wasn’t close. Rob turned 50 just a few days before the contest, so he now has the Canadian masters record. I feel it may be awhile before this record is broken, too.

The fourth event was the Little Big Horn (6” lift). Not too much to report here. I was the last man standing with a lift of 215 lbs, and had no interest in trying to go higher. The final event was a 40-item medley, so there was no sense tiring myself more than necessary.

This being Nationals, there weren’t too many “easy” feats in the medley. It generally consisted of medium, hard, and very hard challenges. Normally I feel I can maintain my energy and strength pretty well throughout the day, but in this medley I definitely felt that I was becoming tired. Nevertheless, I managed to complete 35 feats, one more than Zach and Tremayne Demarteaux. Yves completed 32.

The women had their own 20-item medley. I wasn’t originally planning on having a medley for the women, but I announced that I would design one if at least three women signed up. Because five women registered, I held true to my word. I think they all enjoyed it. Whereas up to this point in the contest the weights lifted by Kathy Facey, Joliane Vinette, and Corinne Lalonde were relatively similar, in the medley Kathy distanced herself from the others. She completed 18 feats, while Corinne had the next best result with 13.

At the end of the day, Yves won the 83 class, I took first in the 105 class, and Zach narrowly edged out his competition to win the heavyweight division. Kathy won the women’s division, while Rob won the masters class. I finished first in the overall standings. All in all, it was a very good day for Team Ottawa as we took first in four of the five classes.

A number of first-time competitors really impressed. Nick Sorensen took second behind Yves in the 83 class: he had the second-best result in four of the five events. At only 15 years of age, Maxim Gervais finished in a very respectable fifth place. Check out his numbers – it’s insane to think of where he’ll be in just a few years if he sticks with it! Raymond Bouchard and Rob Notarianni both have strongman as their main sport, both travelled great distances to come to the contest, and both showed that they can do very well in grip sport. Each nabbed a third-place finish in their respective class.

In my opinion, if there was a most improved award it would have gone to Tremayne. This was his second grip contest, with his first being last year’s King Kong. He finished somewhere in the middle of the pack in King Kong, but in this contest he took a close second to Zach in the heavyweight class. Whatever he’s been doing, he should keep doing it!

All in all, it was a great Nationals!

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