Murray tree climber preps for 2nd appearance at world championships


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MURRAY — J.R. Bleazard likes to call himself a world-class athlete.

But whether you consider Bleazard’s activity of tree climbing to be a sport, there’s no denying Bleazard is world class.

"I tease my wife all the time about being a world-class athlete," Bleazard said. "She just laughs at me."

The Murray City Power employee trims trees for a living, keeping branches and bushes light to make the streets, sidewalks and shaded areas nice for all of us. He’s been doing it for 20 years — but didn’t start climbing competitively until 2010.

But Bleazard will put his "athletic" life on display Aug. 3-5 at the International Tree Climbing Championships in Columbus, Ohio, after winning the Utah championships.

More than 70 climbers from 20 different countries qualified for the event, including Bleazard, who will be making his second appearance in the world championships.

"I did pretty good, but I didn’t think I would be able to win it and make world-class," Bleazard said.

Some of the top tree climbers in the world will be in Columbus, and many of those top athletes — or climbers, if you prefer — come from countries like New Zealand.

There are five events at the world championships: the work climb, that simulates what climbers do every day on the job; the speed climb, which is exactly what it sounds like — climbing as fast as one can; the ascent event, which involves climbing up a bare rope; throw ball, where climbers toss a bean bag on a string into the tree and pull their line into the tree; and rescue, where climbers simulate a rescue attempt of someone injured in the tree line.

"Every tree is different," Bleazard said. "The ability to move around is like being in a whole different world, up above, looking down and on the views. It’s amazing."

But the best part, he admits, is when he gets to go full-Tarzan and swing from branch to branch.

"We get some really good swings," Bleazard said. "There’s a lot of it in the competition. That’s the funnest part."

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Rod Zundel

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