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Scrambling to Italy

Part-time Whistler resident cracks national climbing squad for Youth World Championships


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Brielle Zacharias is just 16, planning a trip to Italy—and looking to do it without a handout from the Bank of Mom and Dad.

Oh, and she's heading to the northern Italian community of Arco for the International Federation of Sport Climbing Youth World Championships as the only Canadian girl in her age category who met the qualifying time.

The part-time Whistler resident will put earnings from her job at Purebread to help cover the roughly $3,500 bill while also hosting a GoFundMe.

"It's definitely an honour. The whole experience is going to be an amazing time," said Zacharias, who is based in Delta. "This year is a bit different from other years because Team Canada will be flying together. We'll be flying together, staying together and eating some of our meals together.

"I love the family feel of everything that we do."

Zacharias' discipline is speed climbing, which comes in handy when competitors go international. That's because the 15-metre course is standardized, so she won't have to adjust to anything dramatically different from what she uses to train here in B.C.

"The reason people can get so fast at it is because it relies a lot on muscle memory," said Zacharias, who primarily trains at Coquitlam's Climb Base5.

During national team qualifiers, Zacharias had to beat 10.46 seconds and finish in the top three of her division to make the team. At the selection camp, she was the lone girl to make the mark as she worked tirelessly to shave 1.3 seconds off her previous best to qualify with one of her final attempts.

"I was trying really hard, and it was the last day that I had to try to get the time. I ended up getting the time and the national team coach came up to me and said, 'Good job, you got it,'" she recalled. "That was a crazy experience. I just started crying when he told me that because I wasn't exactly expecting to get the time."

As Zacharias approached the benchmark, the advice she received from the coaching staff was that her sequencing was spot on, and she just needed to execute it more quickly. Sure enough, with each passing attempt, she clipped precious milliseconds from her time until she crossed the line.

"On the run that I got the time, I was racing against a person that was faster than me, a guy that was a couple age groups older than me. It's nice to race someone faster when you're trying to get faster," she said. "You have a close-to-flawless run with minimal slips and you just go for it."

Zacharias got into climbing through friends' birthday parties, and took up disciplines of bouldering and lead climbing before shifting into speed climbing.

Adding that it's important for an athlete to take part in other sports, Zacharias said she skis in Whistler as often as possible in the winter, as her family owns a condo in Creekside, while she will also occasionally mountain bike up here.

Zacharias' GoFundMe page is online at She had passed her $1,000 goal as of July 3.