Lumberjacks come in all shapes and sizes

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Melissa Deciantis had never picked up a chainsaw  when she decided to become a competitive lumberjack.


“I played all the standard sports when I was a kid. I got to school and I figured this is the only time I’m going to be able to get to do this,” the 23-year-old said Saturday.


Deciantis was among 26 males and females competing in the Ontario Lumberjack Championships in Brechin Saturday.


Six years ago Deciantis joined Fleming College’s lumberjack team and today, along with being an arborist, coaches the very same team.


“We have as many women on the team as we have men,” Deciantis said.


Surprisingly, more and more women are getting involved in the sport every year, she said. They also come in all shapes and sizes.


“People generally think it’s about your body type. Like if you can’t do 10 push ups you shouldn’t be on the team, but there are different events that are for different body types,” Deciantis said.


For example, while Deciantis can fiercely chop through a thick log, she can’t climb a pole. One of the Ontario Lumberjack Championships events requires challengers to climb a tall pole.


“It’s made for people who are tall and skinny,” Deciantis said.


There is a lumberjack event geared toward every body type, she added.


“It’s a good sport because it involves everybody,” Deciantis said.


Deciantis’ favourite competition is called the single buck. Competitors work alone using a six-inch saw to cut a 14 to 16-inch log as fast as they can.


“It’s also called the misery whip because it’s the most tiring event,” Deciantis said.


Being a great lumberjack requires muscle and technique, says Gretchen Cicora.


“You’ve got to be strong. I’ve got a fair amount of muscle on there,” Cicora laughed looking down at her tiny body.


Cicora, a 41-year-old from Springwater, New York, is short and thin.


“We have from very small to very large. There are women smaller than me,” Cicora said.


The trick is technique.


“If you’re not hitting the same spot every time, you’re not sawing it, you’re wasting energy and it will take longer,” Cicora said.


Cicora favourite event is the hot saw. Competitors must cut through three slabs of wood using a modified chainsaw.


“They’re basically chain saw dirt bikes. Drag racing with chainsaws,” Cicora said.


Orillian Colin Duffy was looking forward to watching the hot saw event.


“I’m waiting to see the hot saw because I want to see the big saws go. Huge chainsaws. How can you go wrong with that?” he said.


The Brechin Community Centre board of management has hosted the Ontario Lumberjack Championships for three years now.


“It’s something that the town can be really proud of,” said organizer Shannon O’Donnell. “It’s a pretty cool event. It’s a little bit unique to a lot of other things in the area.”


The event attracts over 2,000 people annually. Attendees have even traveled from Alberta and the United States, O’Donnell said.


“It’s sort of rare for us to be able to have an event that draws not only the local people to it, but people from outside the area,” O’Donnell said.


The community centre board is hoping the annual event will become an economic driver for Brechin.


Wild Wing Brechin offered 10% off to those who attended the championships, O’Donnell said.


“We’re working really hard with the sponsors… trying to push people to their businesses,” O’Donnell said.


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