Local boy Stirling Hart has chopped and sawed his way to the top of the world.
Stirling, 28, has won the Stihl TIMBERSPORTS Champions Trophy, beating out nine-time reigning champion Jason Wynyard from New Zealand and eleven of the best logger sports athletes from around the world.
The competition took place in on May 26 in Marseilles, France.
Stirling went alone to the competition, leaving his biggest cheering section, his family, at home.
“I think part of it was he just wanted to concentrate more on getting it done,” said his aunt Cindy Hart who watched the entire event live on the internet with her wife in Maple Ridge. Her parents watched it along with her brother at their home in Harrison. And Cindy kept her other sister informed by texting her minute by minute action.
“He had trained super super hard,” Cindy added.
Stirling was born into a family of logger sports athletes and started competing in tree climbing when he was only 4-years-old.
In 2010 by a mere .03 seconds he took the world champion finals, climbing 27 metres in 19.64 seconds.
Around his mid-20’s Stirling made the switch from climbing to chopping.
“Which, in the sport itself, for a tree climber to become a chopper is unheard of,” explained Cindy.
“They do it but most of them aren’t very good at it. You either do one discipline or the other,” she noted.
But Cindy thinks that because he was so young when he made the switch and the fact that both his grandfather and father blazed trails in the sport, Stirling took to it quite naturally.
Stirling travelled to Australia and New Zealand to train.
Then he came back and “started kicking everybody’s butt”, said his proud aunt.
Stirling is a four-time Canadian champion, a two-time silver medalist in the Team World Champion competition and he came second in last years Stihl TIMBERSPORTS Champions Trophy by only a fraction of a second.
The competition pits one athlete head-to-head against another. It involves a hot saw race where athletes use a power saw to cut through a 48 centimetre diameter white pine log, an underhand chop where athletes stand on a horizontally positioned block and must cut through a 32 centimetre thick trunk with their axe on both sides, the single buck where the athlete use a cross-cut saw roughly two metres long to saw through the same 48 centimetre diameter piece of white pine and then finally the standing block chop where athletes swing an axe at a vertical 31 centimetre diameter white pine chopping block.
Sport announcers pegged Stirling as the favourite to win with the fastest time trials at one minute and 5.17 seconds.
Cindy is proud of how good Stirling has become overall.
“His focus is incredible,” she said.
Cindy, who did single bucking, log rolling and axe throwing as a teen, says the sport keeps you on the edge of your seat.
She has seen some athletes miss a block and cut their legs. Her father cut his had doing single buck and Stirling, himself, has has a scar that runs down the right side of his face to the corner of his mouth, that she says he wears with pride.
“These guys can seriously get hurt. So yeah, it’s nerve-wracking to watch that part of it,” admitted Cindy.
Cindy knew her nephew was going to take the title when half-way through the race he started pulling away from Wynyard.
“I came off the couch. Tears in my eyes,” she exclaimed.
Although, Cindy added, the race isn’t over until it is over, remembering a competition two years ago when all Stirling had to do was finish the final hot saw race and his saw didn’t start.
“That’s part of the competition,” said Cindy.
“He would of had it but he went from first to fourth. I remember talking to him in his hotel room afterwards and he was just devastated,” she said.
When Stirling lost last years Champions Trophy Cindy told him that losing will make the win so much sweeter. And that’s exactly what Stirling told reporters after the race.
“You know, it’s one of those ones I think I had to lose it numerous times in order for it to mean anything,” he said.
“Last year I was within half a second of making it and that was all that was on my mind through that whole race,” Stirling continued.
At one point he joked that it was nice to finally get a ring of his own, referring to the massive “Superbowl” style ring that every winner receives.
“It was just great to be even up there with the company that I was (with),” said Stirling adding that he will be happy for about a day and then he will be looking forward to next years world championships.