An Indigenous strongwoman is competing this week in Fort McMurray as the only female amateur in the Pro Am competition. Plus, she’s competing alongside her own coach.
Angela Houle is battling for a spot in Canada’s Strongest Woman, so she can enter and become the first Indigenous woman to get her pro card in Canada.
She said she’s trying to pave the way for Indigenous women.
In the last two years, Houle has been in six competitions and she placed in the top three every time.
Houle, a 39-year-old mother from Goodfish Lake First Nation, started lifting seven years ago. She started flipping tractor tires around the track as a way for her to battle the postpartum depression she was facing, but it developed into a passion for strongwoman competitions.
“Everything that was going on with my mental health, I took it out on this tractor tire,” said Houle.
While Houle got into the best shape of her life, she said her mental health was low and there weren’t many supports available to her.
She started going to the gym and said she was “hooked” as everyone was there battling their own demons.
“We’re all battling the same battle. And I’m glad it’s in a gym and it’s not with a bottle,” said Houle.
Her heaviest lift in competition was a 415-pound deadlift, but for the next competition she expects to go much heavier.
“I don’t know what my max is,” Houle said. She’s also done a 500 pound yoke and plans to do 550 pounds on Saturday.
Jackie Osczevski, Houle’s coach, said she’s been working with Houle for almost a year, and she’ll be competing against her trainee at Saturday’s competition.
“She’s been putting in a lot of hard work,” said Osczevski.
She said it’s also inspiring to see Houle work so hard while raising four kids, having a full time job and a marriage.
“To see a married woman with that many kids pursue a goal like this has been very encouraging to me,” said Osczevski.
“Angie is clearly thriving at 39 years old.”
Colten Sloan, Canada’s first Indigenous strongman with a pro card, is Houle’s training partner and relative.
He said it’s great to see Houle entering and winning competitions, because it’s empowering for women.
“It would be nice to see more representation of our people in this sport,” said Sloan.
Houle represents her identity at the shows: She deadlifts in her moccasins.
Growing up, her Kokum always wore moccasins and she said she’s always felt powerful in them because of that.
She said she’d like to see more Indigenous women entering these competitions and she’s more than willing to visit other competitors and train with them.
Houle said being raised in a hunting family made her strong and prepared her for these feats of strength.
“When you’re carrying a … hindquarter out of the bush, well that makes you strong,” Houle said.
Even when it came to fishing, Houle would help haul boats onto the lake and haul nets out of the lake.
This season, Houle has already done two amateur shows and set a record for the axle press.
While Houle loves the sport, she said she may be taking a little break.
“Maybe it’s my turn just to back away,” Houle said. She added she wants to enjoy time with her kids and potentially go back to school.
“This may or may not be my last year,” Houle said.