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Focusing on lifting was a life-saving moment for Sault native

'I love power lifting, but I’ve really learned from it and it empowers me to feel like if I can do this, I can do whatever I want' - Holly Lasante
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Powerlifter Holly Lasante, left, poses with trainer Austyn Ryan - and her silver medal - during the 2019 Canadian Powerlifting Union Nationals in Ottawa. Photo supplied

Being active was always a part of Holly Lasante’s life.

Taking that active lifestyle a step further was something that ultimately changed her life.

“I was always a runner,” Lasante said in a recent interview. “I was always really active, and I started going to the gym with my daughter and Taylor would work out and I would be running on the treadmill, and I thought ‘What she’s doing looks a lot more fun than what I’m doing,’ so I started working out with her.”

“A few years ago, I had a really bad bout with depression,” Lasante said. “I’ve always dealt with depression, but it was really bad (at that time). I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want to do anything.”

Lasante said at that time, her daughter “dragged me to the gym and it kind of saved my life.”

“I started really focusing on my lifting,” Lasante added. “Not that I got my joy from powerlifting, but it enabled me to set these crazy goals and to see that I was able to achieve whatever I set my mind to. It just made me realize that I could do so much more than I was even giving myself credit for. That newfound sense of confidence kind of rolled out into every aspect of my life. I love power lifting, but I’ve really learned from it, and it empowers me to feel like if I can do this, I can do whatever I want.”

Lasante, who worked for over 20 years as a human resources manager, now works as a personal trainer full time

“Just to be able to help other people get that empowerment from it is so rewarding for me,” Lasante said.

Lasante is in the midst of training to represent Canada at the annual World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Sweden.

“It’s crazy,” Lasante said. “Growing up, never did I think I would be doing something like this, doing something for Team Canada. I remember watching events on TV, thinking ‘Wow, that’s so cool’ and, all of a sudden, here I am.”

The upcoming event will be Lasante’s fourth opportunity to represent Canada on an international stage, calling the opportunity “pretty amazing.”

Lasante’s first World Championship was in 2017 in Belarus, an event in which she competed alongside her son Noah.

The following year, Lasante represented Canada in Calgary and competed in the 2019 event, which was in Sweden as well.

Lasante said the opportunity to represent Canada in Calgary in 2018 was “amazing.”

“No matter where you go, you feel so proud, but when you’re there and your family is able to watch you and your friends are able to come and participate in those moments with you is amazing,” Lasante added. “My husband was there, and it was so great to do that and know that he was cheering me on. My mom was able to be there. It was amazing."

The 2020 event, which was to be held in South Africa, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That event was scheduled for April 2020.

Organizers for the event this year opted to hold the event in Sweden again and it’s something Lasante is excited about.

With the pandemic leading to gyms being closed for extended stretches over the past 15 months, Lasante has been able to continue training in the meantime as best she can.

“I’ve been really lucky,” Lasante said. “My husband helped set me up with a nice setup that I have right in my gym. I’ve got everything I could need for powerlifting right in the house, so I’ve been pretty lucky.”

Training for the event, Lasante said she works out for about 90 minutes every day.

“I teach classes in the morning, so I have my cardio there and then I have my lifts,” Lasante said. “My workouts are provided to me by my coach (Austyn Ryan) in Toronto. He sends me an email and tells me what to do. I’ll work on squats and bench one day, then dead lift and bench the next. I do compound lifts and accessory work five times a week and I do cardio six to seven days a week.”

The 2021 event will have a number of COVID protocols in place for the athletes competing.

“Everybody who goes, we all have to be fully vaccinated,” Lasante said. “We have to get a COVID test before we leave, and we have to isolate (after getting the test) until then.”

Lasante said some of the preparations can be tough due to the ever-changing landscape due to COVID, but “we have (people) making sure we’re fully aware of what’s going on.”

Masks will be required for everyone at the facility during the event.

“We have to wear a mask 90 per cent of the time,” Lasante said. “The only time you’re permitted to take your mask off during the competition is when you’re actually on the platform doing your lift, then you have to put your mask back on.”

Lasante said the precautions are in place for the event, which is just under two months away.

“They’re expecting over 600 athletes competing at this event,” Lasante said. “We know that everybody who is going to be competing have all taken the same precautions. The safety of the athletes and the people that are participating in the event from spectators to coaches is the main thing.”

The annual event is set to be held in Halmstad, Sweden beginning on Sept. 23.