Strong man, strong woman competition hits Spruce Grove

Until last year, Bailey Deschene had never touched a barbell. Now she can deadlift a car.

'If you want to lift it, you can'

Bailey Deschene began training as a strongman competitor in 2015. (Bailey Deschene)

Until last year, Bailey Deschene had never touched a barbell. Now she can deadlift a car.

The 21-year-old will be lifting kegs, dragging chains and hoisting rocks at Spruce Grove's Strongest Man Competition this weekend.

She's one of eight women are taking part. This year marks the first time women will have a chance to test their brawn at the annual event, which previously has only been open to male competitors.

"It has a different adrenaline rush than the other sports that I've played," Deschene said Monday during an interview on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It's a sport where at the end of the day, it's all up to you. If you want to win, you have to do your best."

Deschene, who played lacrosse, fast-pitch and ringette throughout high school, began weight training full-time last year, after she watched one her friends from massage therapy school compete. She fell in love with the sport.

"She was lifting sand bags and just pulling heavy stuff. It really intrigued me and I wanted to do it," said Deschene.
Bailey Deschene will be competing in the new women's division of the Spruce Grove's Strongest Man Competition. (Bailey Deschene )
 "I went all in."

Since then,Deschene has competed all over North America. In June she took home a title from an amateur strongman competition in Ireland.

She says female competitors are still far outnumbered by the men, but the sport is growing in popularity among women.

"There are some people who think you have to be this strong manly women," Deschene said.

"But I'm not really that big of a girl. It's more about not giving up and if you want to lift it, you can."

'I was hooked' 

It's a view shared by one of the event organizers, James Anderson, who began competing in strongman competitions nearly seven years ago.

"My mom passed away from cancer and I started lifting to try and prevent that for myself," said Anderson, who was nearly 400 pounds at time of his mother's death. He began fearing for his own health.

Anderson just wanted to be healthy, but some members of the strongman community who worked out at the same gym had something else in mind.

"Maybe five months into my training, one of the previous generation of Edmonton strongmen just approached me and I said, 'No, I'm not strong enough for this.' "

"But I came out one day, literally one hour on a Wednesday, and I was hooked."

Anderson and Deschene will vie for the title of Spruce Grove's strongest, alongside athletes from all over the West, including Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, southern Alberta and British Columbia.

There will be 20 competitors in the men's division, and eight in the newly formed female division. The roster of 28 athletes is double the number of competitors from last year.

"You want to put something on that engages the crowd but you also want to make sure you're testing the competitors. It's a fine line," said Anderson.

"It's part competition, part sport and part show business."


Wallis Snowdon is a journalist with CBC Edmonton focused on bringing stories to the website and the airwaves. Originally from New Brunswick, Wallis has reported in communities across Canada, from Halifax to Fort McMurray. She previously worked as a digital and current affairs producer with CBC Radio in Edmonton. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca.

With files from Ariel Fournier