Gavel: The fastest man in the world on stairs

IS there a more unassuming sports star in Canberra than Mark Bourne? If there is, they don’t readily come to mind.

Vertical World Circuit Champion Mark Bourne… the fastest stair climber in the world. Photo by Gary Schafer

Vertical World Circuit Champion Mark Bourne… the fastest stair climber in the world. Photo by Gary Schafer

Mark is the reigning Vertical World Circuit Champion. If you were in the dark about the Vertical World Circuit, you wouldn’t be alone.

He is the fastest stair climber in the world. Earlier this month he won the Taipei 101 for the third year in a row.

As the name suggests, there are 101 floors and it’s a 439-metre vertical race to the top. A quick Google search provides an immediate impression, but probably doesn’t do justice to the effort required.

Monday to Friday, 30-year-old Mark is a public servant working at the Department of the Environment. He juggles his training around work as well as being a dad to two kids, with a third on the way.

He needs to be organised and disciplined. Thankfully, he has a strong training group, which includes Olympic marathoner Martin Dent. He has a strong background in mountain running, which has obvious benefits when climbing two steps at a time, 101 floors into the sky.

In terms of managing his time, Mark has opted to compete in a minimum number of events this year in a bid to retain his world title. There are eight events in total, but the title is determined on the top four results. He missed defending his Empire State Building crown earlier this year, but has started with victory in Taipei.

This year Mark will focus on events in Asia. There are a couple of reasons for this, including time away from work.

Another is cost; despite being the world champion he regularly has to self-fund his trips away for competition. There is some prizemoney, which does little more than cover costs.

Unfortunately, none of the Australian Tower races in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne are on the world circuit, so if you want to be the world champion you have to head overseas.

I asked him why he does it. He simply said: it is something he enjoys doing. So while you are contemplating taking the lift or the stairs, give the stairs a go just to see, if for nothing else, how you would fare racing up 101 floors.

The right track

WORLD BMX champion, Caroline Buchanan, is so passionate about her sport that she is channeling her energies into building an Olympic-class BMX track in Canberra.

It is rare for an elite athlete to look beyond their own backyard, but for Caroline this has become a quest almost as consuming as competition itself.

There are two BMX tracks in Canberra; one at Melba and one at Tuggeranong. Caroline says neither is capable of hosting major events in a sport that is growing.

I know little about what’s needed for a BMX track, but it’s obvious that mounds of dirt and plenty of space are prerequisites. Caroline says for Canberra to host major events a new track needs to be built. The exact location for the facility is one aspect, another is funding.

Given we are building a beach volleyball facility, it is only natural that other sports are looking at facilities and what can be done to lift the standard.

I have no real issue with the beach volleyball facility if it can be shown to attract events and grow the sport in the ACT. Volleyball is at least providing some of the funding itself. Under that criteria, BMX deserves some assistance.

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