Bolting to bodybuilding success

Invermere’s Tanelle Bolt first competing female wheelchair bodybuilder in Canada

Invermere’s Tanelle Bolt gives the fiercest of hugs. She is a lean and sinewed force to be reckoned with – even when she likes you.

Ms. Bolt said she is Canada’s first competing female wheelchair bodybuilder. At the 2019 TNT Muscle Showdown in Edmonton on Saturday, June 22nd, Ms. Bolt flexed and posed in a category all her own, earning a first-place medal and a tiara.

“They were looking for a woman to open up the doors to the competition in Canada,” she said, adding that the organizers extended a personal invitation to her 78 days before the show.

Ms. Bolt, who started the Recreation Adapted Society (RAD), said yes because she was looking for “a Hail Mary initiative” to promote the society and fill its emptied-out coffers. Currently RAD owns around $70,000 in specialty equipment that it rents out so those with disabilities can do things they otherwise couldn’t – like stand to golf or sit to ski or bike on a mountain trike.

She also said she did the fitness show: “so that there’s never a person than can look at me and tell me that they can’t until the end of time. I had four shoulder dislocations, and I hadn’t been to the gym for two and half years. Till the end of time I can always tell somebody: ‘Get up. Get your *** off the couch. What’s your excuse?’”

Five years ago, Ms. Bolt jumped off a bridge on an adventure with her friends and hit something terribly unforgiving on the way down. She has been in a wheelchair with a spinal-cord injury ever since and has had to adapt to her new body, one that comes with limits she is constantly pushing against.

On stage flexing her tanned and ripped muscles for the appreciative crowd of 300 people with “smoke guns and lights going off,” Ms. Bolt was overcome with emotion.

“I can really see my injury level and how it’s contoured my body, but it’s also still my body. I can’t hate it… I’m not ashamed of the body I currently sit in,” she said. “It was almost nice to see it in that light, you know, done up and tanned and together. And that’s the best I’ve felt about my body since my injury.”

This wasn’t Ms. Bolt’s first experience posing on stage, but it was her first time doing so in her chair.

Just before her accident, Ms. Bolt had spent $10,000 and a year in the gym to enter a fitness competition where she “just blend(ed) into a row of pretty girls” and felt invisible.

“People are a lot more genuine now. Not so fake to your face. When you walk around looking like a fitness Barbie, you get a lot of fake to your face,” she said. “I’m proud to start changing people’s perspectives on disabilities.”

Ms. Bolt was back in the Valley for a few days after the competition but is now on another adventure hand-cycling and paddling from Revelstoke to Nelson with Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association.

Next spring and summer she plans to do a six-month hand-cycling trip with RAD.

To find out more about RAD or to make a donation, visit

“Fitness for me is full of endorphins. All it does when you train for something like this is fill you with all of the good feelings. It helps stress and anxiety and PTSD,” she said. “Push your limits. Push what you think you can do.”

Just Posted

101-year-old man targets 101 block fundraising walk for food bank

A centenarian in Invermere has embarked on a new adventure to raise money for the food bank.

Entrepreneur implements safety measures to cope with long weekend

Ryan Haynes prepares for both the pandemic and for the Victoria Day long weekend in May.

Wings Over the Rockies encourages nature viewing during pandemic

Three local photographers and Wings supporters offer nature viewing tips.

Hospital chief of staff provides guidance on COVID-19 and the Columbia Valley as we open up

Chief of staff says: “COVID-19 … is still here and is not going away any time soon.”

Our community news matters

Guest editorial by Arnold Malone

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

Feds delay national action plan for missing and murdered Indigenous women

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the violence facing many Indigenous women and girls

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

COLUMN: Canada needs to remember rural communities as thoughts turn to pandemic recovery

Small towns often rely on tourism, which has been decimated by COVID-19

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read