Pace herself. Make her lifts. Make her lifts and set personal records. Do what she consistently does in her CrossFit Vernon gym she co-owns with her partner, or maybe a little better.
Those were Deanna Fester’s modest goals for her debut appearance at the 100 Per Cent Raw World Powerlifting Championships Halloween weekend in Virginia Beach, VA.
The loftier goals for the 29-year-old gym enthusiast included squatting a world record, winning her weight class and winning best overall lifter.
Fester returned home from the worlds with a stunning trophy and a championship belt engraved with “women lightweight world powerlifting champion” after winning her weight class.
She missed that world squat record by only five pounds.
“I don’t normally go into competition with having a result in mind,” said Fester. “I usually go in with specific goals. I always want to do my best. That’s exactly what my goal was for the worlds.”
The five-foot-six, 145-pounder (66 kilograms) was competing directly with 15 women in the lightweight class, and, out of approximately 50 women in the lightweight category, Fester beat them all based on the Wilks Coefficient result, which takes a competitor’s weight and how much they lift.
“Because I’m not very big for a powerlifter but lift very heavy, I can often win based on that,” smiled Fester.
Oh and she lifted heavy in Virginia Beach all right.
Fester set a personal record in the backsquat of 142.5 kilos (342.1 pounds). This is where a competitor takes the bar and weights, places them on their back, squats down then has to stand up again.
She pressed 80 kilos (176.3 pounds) in the bench press and picked up 167.5 kilos (369.2 pounds) in the deadlift event.
Fester helped Team Canada win best overall country at the 100 Per Cent Raw event.
Powerlifting is an umbrella sport under crossfit, but is different from Olympic weightlifting, which features the snatch and the clean-and-jerk (Fester also competes in that event where she is provincial champion and nationally ranked).
Fester earned her spot onto Team Canada at the world qualifying event held in Lake Country in June. There, she posted the highest Wilks Coefficient of any of the women on Team Canada For Raw powerlifting.
“They asked me if I wanted to be a sponsored athlete to go to the worlds,” said Fester. “Absolutely. I said I’d love the opportunity to represent my country and my gym. To have the highest Wilks Coefficient at worlds was humbling, surprising, wonderful. It was everything.”
Fester grew up in Vernon playing every sport she could, which she credits to the love and support of her family.
Four years ago, a girlfriend was doing crossfit and believed Fester, a competitive, athletic person, would enjoy it.
“I tried it and instantly fell in love with it” said Fester, who found something else in the crossfit gym: love.
She met gym owner Jeremy Meredith, who said he would never date anybody who was a client.
It took a lot of convincing – Fester had to ask Meredith out numerous times – before the couple with a shared love of athletics became close. Today, they co-own the new facility they opened this summer on 11th Avenue.
“I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the unconditional support of my partner,” said Fester of Meredith.
Fester also draws inspiration from fellow competitors and those she works out with in her own gym.
One of the competitors in Virginia Beach was 11. Another was 86 who has been doing crossfit “forever.” One man with Parkinson’s Disease comes into CrossFit Vernon everyday and works hard, through his tremors.
“A lot of people in here overcome obstacles and adversity, they’re the inspiring ones,” said Fester. “Here and at competitions, there are athletes from all walks of life and different shapes and sizes, and they’re doing what they love.”
Fester, who trains three-to-five times a week for an hour (two hours for powerlifting events), plans to defend her titles at next year’s 100 Per Cent Raw World Powerlifting championship in Pennsylvania.
She also wants that world squat record.
“I hope to keep improving on what I can do,” she said.
“You can only do what you can do, only keep improving yourself. It’ll get harder every year. People get stronger, train harder, but that’s what motivates you, too. If you want to be the best, you have to work hard.”