Shannon Webster

The power not to just lift, but heal

Kassidy Webster won best lifter in the junior girls’ class at the recent B.C. Powerlifting Association Fall Classic

Shannon Webster used to really worry about her daughter.

Her young and athletic girl was a pre-teen when she fell through a door, and plunged down to the ground where a deck should have been.

Kassidy picked herself up, and brushed herself off, like the ball player that she was. She didn’t want to be hurt. But a searing pain shot up into her back, and then down to her leg. Something was really wrong.

The next day – Halloween three years ago – she was in surgery at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, having two pins the size of deck screws inserted into her broken hip.

The doctors warned Shannon that Kassidy had a long rehabilitation ahead of her. She might always walk with a limp. One leg could end up shorter than the other. A sudden growth spurt in Kassidy could mean she would need a second surgical procedure.

Kassidy could bear no weight on her legs, so for six months she was either in a wheelchair or on crutches. She missed most of Grade 7.

As soon as she could, Shannon put her daughter into swimming courses, hoping to get her active, and fully rehabilitated. She couldn’t know how far the girl would go.

Soon Kassidy completed all her swimming lessons. She still walked with a bit of a limp.

During physiotherapy work, they got to know Adam Francilia, a local trainer who works with pro and amateur athletes. Maple Ridge’s own Andrew Ladd, the captain of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, trains with him, and he has developed a unique workout for Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer, specifically adapted to a goaltender’s needs.

Kassidy’s rehabilitation was in good hands. It took about a year of real anxiety over her daughter’s physical well being, but then Shannon started to see that Kassidy had turned a corner.

She did three weekly workouts with Francilia. He explained that she has to keep the muscles around her injured hip strong, so exercise needs to be part of her routine.

“As Kass and I worked together throughout her rehabilitation process, I saw that she had certain unique qualities that I often see in successful athletes,” Francilia said. “She is incredibly positive and honest, mentally tough, very motivated and she trusts in the process. This is why we had such success with her rehab.”

In July, he asked her what she wanted to do for a workout.

“I want to power-lift, like Mira,” she answered.

It is the rare teenage girl who wants to become a powerlifter, but perhaps not if they train in the same gym as Mira Slapinski. She is a 50-ish woman who is both a yoga instructor and an Ironman competitor. She is tiny, 103 pounds. She suffered a broken pelvis in a bike accident. Slapinski challenged herself in her rehab, stepping out of her comfort zone, and took on power-lifting training. She became a Canadian champion.

Kassidy, now a Grade 10 student at Garibaldi secondary, threw herself at the powerlifting workouts, the same way Slapinski did.

“Kass was very intrigued as she watched Mira train for her powerlifting competitions,” Francilia said. “I could see a little spark in her eye and knew that she’d be up for the challenge.”

Kassidy loves the sport, enjoys pushing herself to the limits, and seeing how quickly the gains come, week after week.

Kassidy won best lifter in the junior girls’ class at the recent B.C. Powerlifting Association Fall Classic, with an impressive 231-pound deadlift, which is double her 114-pound weight. She also did a 165-pound squat and a 110-pound bench press.

“I never, ever thought that I would be doing a competition when I started,” she said.

Powerlifters compete in gender and weight classes, so the playing field is level. Kassidy is surprised more people don’t try it.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s not popular, but if everyone tried it, and saw the improvements, they would like it.”

If it works for Kassidy, it works for her mother.

“Fitness has to be a way of life for her – that’s her lifestyle, and she absolutely loves it,” said Shannon. “We’re thrilled to see her get so strong again, and start succeeding again.”

Each trophy an athlete get means something different to them. Kassidy’s powerlifting trophy symbolizes how an injury that could have changed her life is in the past. She worked her way past it.

“It’s way behind me.”

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