If you’re grabbing food at Ribfest in Victoria Park this weekend, beware of flying wood chips.
The rip-roaring of chainsaws and smell of freshly cut wood will fill the air along with barbecue sauce as the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Championship visits London.
A massive stage sits in the middle of the park where six different events face Canada’s top timbersport athletes: standing block chop, stock saw, underhand chop, single buck, springboard, and hot saw.
Marcel Dupuis of Memramcook, New Brunswick is the reigning men’s champion, and says fans won’t be disappointed.
“You’ll see people swinging some razor sharp axes that you can shave yourself with, they’ll be chopping blocks that are 13 inches in the 20-second range, there will be long saws, there will be hot saws which is dirt bike motors running a chainsaw,” he said. “It’s going to be an entertaining and a fun show for the crowd to see.”
When Dupuis says you can shave yourself with the axes, he means it.
In the men’s category, 18 athletes will compete for the national title. Two qualifiers will be held on Friday from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday from 2-6 p.m.
The final will be held Sunday from 2-6 p.m.
Cape Breton’s Caitlin Caroll was named the women’s national champion on Thursday.
She says she’s now sitting at the height of the sport.
“In Canada, right now it’s one of the only countries that has a caliber of competition like this for women. So right now, this is the highest that we can really go, which is just phenomenal.”
Caroll says athletes train day in and day out and participate in timbersport series’ in their respective provinces where competitions can take place every weekend.
For Stirling Hart of Vancouver, British Columbia, this weekend represents a shot at redemption. Hart was named the men’s national champion back in 2014.
“It’s always really hard to find the motivation to come back and win again. You gain a new respect for athletes that have won multiple titles in any sport because it’s really hard to dig deep and find that motivation, and I just didn’t quite find it last year, but I’ve definitely come back way hungrier this year.”
Speaking of hunger, Hart said the smell of ribs wafting through the air may be a bit of a distraction for the athletes.
“I can smell the ribs, and I haven’t decided if I want to break the athletic diet yet,” he said. “But I think I might have to, to go get a set of those ribs in me.”