The Greater Sudbury Fire Service has some world champions in its ranks.
Four members of the department recently competed at the Scott World Firefighter Combat Challenge in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — two of the four were crowned world champions.
The Combat Challenge has been dubbed “the toughest two minutes in sports.” The purpose of the competition is to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigours to the public.
Wearing full bunker gear and the Scott Air-Pak breathing apparatus, participants simulate real-life firefighting by climbing a five-storey tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a 175-pound “victim.”
In his 14th year of competition, Sudbury’s Jimmy Kolar won his second world title, this time in the over 50 category. In 2007, Kolar not only won the over 45 category, he also set a new world record.
He said it was a “sweet victory.”
“Fourteen years ago, when I started doing this sport, I set a goal that I would just like to be able to do it at 50 — I wasn’t even thinking about winning it back then,” he said. “But ... (I) realized it’s obtainable, and just kept going.”
While he admitted the recovery period is a bit lengthier now, Kolar said he is still training as hard as he used to, “just not as frequently.”
“My times are still the same as they were seven years ago, so I haven’t lost any speed,” he said. “But it starts to wear down on you as you get older.”
He said it’s the camaraderie, both with his team and those he meets at the competitions, that has kept him coming back all these years.
“The actual competition isn’t fun,” he said. “It’s gruelling, it hurts — I’ve never done anything where I’ve been so nervous in my entire life. I think it’s just the way you feel after. There’s a lot of camaraderie and good friendship after the event is over.”
Whether he’ll make a return to defend his title next year is still up in the air.
“I think I’ll just see how I feel next year,” he said. “But I’m already thinking about it. I won it, but can I set a record? I think I can do it, but mentally, you have to be there.”
Trevor Fera was a dual champion this year. It marked the fourth straight year in which Fera placed in the top 10 in the world, and the third year he claimed the championship title.
Two years ago, Fera took the overall title as an individual. This year, he took the top spot in the Male Tandem category, with his partner of four years from Hamilton, and defended his title in the Co-ed Tandem category, with his partner of two years from York Regional.
Fera and his female partner also set a new world record this year.
“It’s a good feeling pushing yourself to the maximum that your body can take,” he said. “It keeps us healthy and fit, and it promotes good health (and camaraderie) in our department.”
Next year, Fera wants to win the worlds again, but this time, he has his sights set on the team title.
“My team is fantastic,” he said. “It’s a good bunch of guys. Next year is going to be great. With our team, we’re going to be the best in the world.”
Also representing the Greater Sudbury Fire Service was Jesse Laronde and rookie competitor Adam Blais. Both men represented well with competitive times in a field of more than 500 athletes from 15 different countries.
Blais said his first year competing on the race circuit was both “fun” and “nerve-racking.”
“It’s really physically taxing,” he said. “It’s one of those things that’s a true test. You really don’t know what kind of shape you’re in until you push yourself.”
It helps when he has a team of champions behind him, giving him that extra push as well.
“It’s inspiring for me,” Blais said. “I really get a lot of good motivation from these guys, seeing all this hardware. I want some of that to bring home for myself. I couldn’t think of anyone better to train with — these guys are the best and they’ve been the best for a while.”
A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt either.
“Jesse and I had a friendly wager of $100,” Blais said with a smile. “We raced each other head-to-head and he beat me by half a second.”
Fire Chief Danny Stack said the team’s success has had a positive impact on the entire department.
“Every Greater Sudbury firefighter is bursting with pride and happiness for both Jimmy and Trevor,” Stack said. “Their achievements have been amazing and a tremendous morale booster for our local force. They have performed exceedingly well at all levels in the sport and we have high hopes for the entire team next year.
“Truly, with the crew we have, it’s four world champions in my eyes.”
To watch a video of Fera competing in the Combat challenge, click here.