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Former Williams Lake resident wins at Canadian Strongman championship

Third time’s a charm for Anne Butters

Anne Butters is officially the Strongest Woman in Canada in her weight class.

Butters won the top spot in the U73 kg amateur category at the Strongman National Championships held at the Minto Armoury in Winnipeg on Oct. 20.

“It’s pretty cool,” Butters said when asked what it feels like to be a national champion in the niche sport.

“To be first at nationals was my goal from the beginning.”

Butters had been focused on cross-fit training for eight years when the opportunity presented itself to give strongman a try in 2020. Strongman is a weightlifting-based sport where athletes compete in several events to prove their strength, speed and endurance.

Since Butters discovered the sport, she just did this one thing: she worked out three hours a day, four days a week for three years.

“I just do what I’m told,” Butters said of her training sessions, which are created for her by her trainer/coach, Dorell Petties. “He’s the mastermind behind it all.”

Born and raised in Williams Lake by her parents Heidi and Herb, Butters has always been athletic, and humble. She played on the local rugby team, where she gravitated to the inclusive, supportive feeling of that sport; something she said feels very similar to the sport of strongman.

While she attended university for environmental engineering at UNBC, Butters worked summers as a BC Wildfire Service firefighter at the Cariboo Fire Centre. Once she graduated from school and hit the workforce in her chosen profession, however, she soon realized she had lost her interest in environmental engineering.

“I realized relatively quickly it wasn’t for me long-term … the fulfilment just wasn’t there,” she said. “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you like it.”

Butters switched career paths to something she was familiar with, firefighting, and headed off to Cranbrook to attend the fire services training program for six months at the College of the Rockies. Her time at the fire centre in Williams Lake gave her the confidence to move into structural protection.

Once she turned her efforts to becoming a firefighter, she took physical fitness more seriously.

“I considered it a job requirement.”

Eager to get to work, Butters applied for jobs across the province and country, and landed her first full-time job with the Grande Prairie Fire Department where she remains today.

Her shift work lends itself well to training as she works 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, followed by four days off.

She isn’t strict with her diet. Butters said she eats more now than ever, adding she is also known to partake in a “fire hall diet” of nacho chips and ice cream sundaes. Generally, though, she eats a healthy, balanced diet and listens to her body.

Butters first competed in Strongman Nationals in 2020 and placed third. In 2022, she competed and placed second. This year, of course, she won first.

“Third time’s a charm.”

Butters competed in five different events over one day at nationals, with the keg-to-bar event being her highest placement.

In that last event of the day, competitors lifted a 200-pound keg filled with sand over a chest-high bar. Butters gave it everything she had left, lifting the keg over the bar eight times in 60 seconds.

“I knew I had to win that event to win.”

Butters’ rise to the top hasn’t been without its challenges. She has struggled with back strain during training, but credits a strong team of practitioners with keeping her competing.

She does plan to compete at nationals again next year, and said she will take it as it comes after that.

“I’ll just keep doing my thing.”

In Grande Prairie, Butters has settled into life with her two dogs and partner Kyle, also a firefighter. The two are planning to get married next year.

“He’s my No. 1 cheerleader,” she said.

Butter’s sister, Jane, lives nearby in Tumbler Ridge with her young family, and her brother, Richard, lives in Williams Lake.

For anyone interested in trying a new sport, Butters encourages them to give it a try.

“The strongman community is incredible, very welcoming,” she said. “I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s a very friendly sport. Everybody’s cheering for you.”

Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

A desire to travel led me to a full-time photographer position at the Williams Lake Tribune in B.C.’s interior.
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