The sport of powerlifting has taken 28 year old Josée Seguin from one coast of Canada to the other.
This month, however, will see the Sudbury Special Olympian expand her horizons.
Come March 7th, Séguin will join 108 other Canadian athletes and some 65 support staff members (coaches, doctors, mission staff) departing for Abu Dhabi, site of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.
Now eight years into her quest to become one of the best female lifters in the country, Séguin qualified for this event while competing at nationals in Antigonish (Nova Scotia) last fall. "I was suprised with my dead lift," she said prior to a recent training session at Laurentian University.
"I had never lifted that much before. But I think I had more confidence, knowing that I had a chance to qualify for Worlds, and that I had lifted the weights some times in practice." While powerlifting at the Special Olympics generally features squats, bench press and dead lifts, it is only the latter two that are formally counted towards an aggregate championship.
"Not everybody can squat, but you can compete in it," said Séguin. "I find I have a lot more strength in the dead lift and squats, because it's more of your legs, and I have pretty strong legs." Séguin would claim no less than three gold medals at the 2018 National Summer Games, in addition to being named the top lifter in Canada.
Over the course of the past year or so, she has worked closely with coach Callen McGibbon, a man who continues to guide numerous Voyageur athletes, as well as a handful of professional hockey players, through their strength and conditioning programs.
"The thing we worked on most, right away, was shoring up what she could do consistently, so that she could do it on command," explained McGibbon. "In powerlifting, it's one thing to be able to get a personal best lift, but it's another to be able to consistently hit those targets."
And like most Special Olympics coaches, McGibbon remains thankful for the opportunity that his partnership with Séguin has provided, though he would suggest that it's a mindset that, quite honestly, spreads right across his entire clientele.
"I'm pretty grateful, every day," said McGibbon. "I've got a pretty wicked job. Everyone who is here is here because they have decided they want to be exceptional at what they do. What I find special in working with Josée is exactly what I find special about working with every single person that walks through the door."
"It's just awesome to be around people who want to be better, all the time."
That is exactly the type of motivational approach that has Séguin flying halfway across the world to join forces with athletes in sports such as swimming and bowling, soccer, basketball and bocce.
"I know some of the soccer players and I know, of course, some lifters, but also some of the swimmers, because I previously went to swimming events," said the young woman who initially started lifting while training alongside her older brother (Robert), a hockey player in his youth.
"I want to go see some of the other sports that we don't have here. They will have open swimming, sailing, kayaking, beach volleyball - and I just want to see the culture over there compared to here."
Opening Ceremonies for the 2019 World Games are set to take place on March 14th, with the multi-sport competition continuing right through until March 21st. A total of 177 countries will be represented in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.