Airing Thursdays on CBC and CBC Gem at 8 p.m., Canada’s Ultimate Challenge follows 24 adventurous Canadians as they embark on a journey that transforms the country into an epic obstacle course. Six teams, each led by celebrity coaches, compete in group, tandem and solo challenges that showcase the beauty and diversity of the Canadian landscape.
Hustle + Charm had the honour of chatting with three of the competitors with ties to Winnipeg. We’d like to introduce three inspirational women:
Alana Warnick (She/her), 42, is a firefighter from Winnipeg. She’s been involved in sports her entire life and even scored Team Canada’s first goal at the World Floorball Championships in Denmark. Alana is competing in Canada’s Ultimate Challenge to show her wife and three-year-old son that she is a fierce competitor that will give her teammates her all.
Devon MD Jones (She/Her), 44, is originally from Winnipeg and is a stretch therapist and reflexologist living in Toronto. She previously was one triple jump away from qualifying for the Olympic trials, but injuries eventually sidelined her career. Devon wants to break the myth that black women over 40 don’t exercise and hopes to push the boundary for that representation.
Dilpreet Bhattal (She/Her), 31, was raised in Winnipeg and is an online fitness coach living in Toronto. Her coach is Olympic sprinter Donovan Bailey, and she competes for Team Red. Dilpreet became Winnipeg’s first Punjabi female competitive bodybuilder to win Miss Bikini Fitness. She hopes to inspire South Asian Women to break societal norms and barriers.
Alana: My initial reaction when I found out I was going to be competing in the inaugural season of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge was a rollercoaster of emotions.
First, I was in disbelief and then felt this rush of energy through my body of sheer excitement, followed by a fist pump or two, and I remember just feeling extremely fortunate to have been selected out of thousands of Canadians for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After I sat there processing everything that had just happened, I ran downstairs and shared this incredible news with my wife, who was very proud of me.
Then, a short time after that, I had an overall feeling of anxiousness and fear when the realization was setting in of what I may have just got myself into. So I took a deep breath and said “It’s go time!” and never looked back.
Devon: The timing of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge couldn’t have been more perfect. I had just gotten out of a two-year relationship and was trying to find my footing. So when the casting call came up, I jumped right on it.
I was nervous at first, because if I was going to do it, I was going to try to win it all. But I was worried that I would have to compete against people much younger than me.
I was used to winning. In grade 11, I won six red ribbons (aka first place) in one track meet: Long Jump, Triple Jump, 200m, 400m, 4×100 and medley relay. I had my first feature in the sports section of the Winnipeg Sun when I was in junior high. I started doing TV interviews when I was in high school. I was 19 when I represented Manitoba at the 1997 Canada Games.
As much as I know I’m in great shape for my age (44), I’m not at the level that I would like to be going into a competition. I don’t train at that same level, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to measure up and add value to my team. I wanted to be able to compete like a 22-year-old varsity track athlete, but that was a lifetime ago.
Dilpreet: When I found out I was going to be competing on Canada’s Ultimate Challenge, I was taken by surprise! At first I didn’t believe it and had to ask the cast producer, Mike Yerxa, to repeat it. Then, it slowly started to hit me and I was ecstatic that I got accepted. Nervous, shocked, excited, happy…all the emotions!
Alana: My entire life and career as a firefighter have been influenced by the experiences I have learned and lived through from competition in community, high school and university team sports. I am a highly competitive individual and have been fortunate throughout my life to have competed at all levels on provincial, national and international stages in various sports that I have excelled at.
Now that I am 42, I wanted this opportunity to prove to myself that I still have the competitive drive to push myself to my limits, with a win-at-all-costs mentality. I loved the challenge of being placed on teams with complete strangers and having to navigate through the competitions together in pursuit of victory. This opportunity to compete on Canada’s Ultimate Challenge means more than anyone will ever know, not only for myself, but for the pride of my wife and son, who are my world.
My hope is that my son can watch this show for years to come, and have the mentality that he can do absolutely anything in his lifetime that he puts his heart and soul into. I know how proud I will make my entire family, my parents and brothers who have always been my biggest fans, and for each and every person that I have had the privilege to call my coach. I know I will make them all proud.
Devon: Most of what motivates me in everything I do in life, is creating space for my five nieces. When I found out at 38 years old that I couldn’t have kids, I focused on how I can make this world a safer place for them to develop and grow in.
Growing up, I had to fight a lot of battles on my own, create my own spaces and learn a lot of things the hard way, through trial and error. My parents came to Canada and created spaces for us, and I want to do the same for black women of all ages.
As black women, a lot of us live to survive each day. But I want my nieces to feel like they have choices and not feel limited by their race, gender or age. I want them to know that every opportunity is an opportunity for them, if they want it to be.
Dilpreet: Competing on Canada’s Ultimate Challenge means a lot to me and my family. Personally, I feel privileged I had the opportunity to represent the Punjabi and South Asian community – especially the women. My hopes are that it inspires the youth and young women of my community to step outside the societal norms and try something new, go after their dreams, find love for fitness and channel their inner confidence.
Being on this show is a lifetime experience that I will always cherish. I got to create new friendships across Canada, I went to places I had never been before mentally and physically, and I have a greater appreciation for Canada as we got to see so much more of its beauty.
My family is really proud that I had the opportunity to represent my community – and my family – and for giving it my 100% on all of the challenges. They love seeing the women in the family be strong!
Alana: Some advice that I would give aspiring athletes who are thinking about a career in firefighting would be to always lead by example, train your body and mind, never underestimate yourself or your abilities, and always challenge yourself and your fears.
Every time someone asks me if I chose the right career as a firefighter, my immediate response is that it is the best job in the world and I would never do anything else. Being an athlete on a team and being a firefighter are very similar in the physical and psychological demands placed on the body. The one thing I love the most about firefighting is the family atmosphere, and working together with my sisters and brothers, whether it is in the station, on the fire ground or on an emergency scene. Everyone has a specific role to play and you depend on one another for success, especially when life is on the line. Most athletes practice for a specific opponent; firefighters can practice but never know the opponent they will be facing.
Lastly, if you want a rewarding career that makes a difference in the community it serves that is considered to be a highly skilled profession, then becoming a firefighter is without a doubt the path to take. Just go for it, never second guess your decision and at no time count yourself out.
Devon: I would tell them the same thing I tell my personal training clients: You’re stronger than you think you are. As soon as you can internalize that, the further you can go.
Also, take care of your body! I didn’t know how to make my mobility and flexibility a priority as an athlete. It wasn’t something coaches fully understood at that time.
For the parents and the coaches of young athletes, lead by example. Fitness was a natural priority for me because I watched my parents exercise and lift weights. From the moment I could walk, I would do aerobics with my mom every morning. Now, as I train and stretch my clients in their homes, they have their children seeing them make their health and wellness a priority. It makes the children curious and helps them understand that this is a thing they need to do for themselves.
Dilpreet: My advice for aspiring athletes or those who want to be in the fitness space is to not give up! If you are incredibly passionate about the fitness world, fight through the ups and downs. Imposter syndrome can kick in from time to time, but try really hard to push that little voice down and let it know that you are in charge.
Align yourself with why fitness is so important to you and why you want to help/inspire others. If you love what you do and it fills your heart, you will find a way to make it work. Keep believing in yourself!
My experience as an LGBTQ+ female athlete has always been very positive. I came out in my early 20s and have been grateful to have never experienced any discrimination during athletic competition, and my family and friends have always accepted me for who I am. I feel that women’s sports as a whole are ahead of the game when it comes to providing a safer space for the LGBTQ+ community. As quoted from Team USA women’s soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe, “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s never been done before, ever.”
As a young black woman, I was always on high alert. Everywhere you go, you’re the minority, you’re the exotic other. So if you’re not explaining who and why you are the way you are, you’re trying to become something you’re not.
My father was always a great supporter of my athletic endeavours; he even coached my soccer team.
Of course, I had to deal with racism and sexism, but because my parents raised me and my siblings to be proud of our race and culture and led by example by creating spaces, it never slowed me down from pursuing my dreams and taking on new challenges. My parents gave me and my siblings amazing opportunities for us to be able to have choices. Having choices as a black person in Winnipeg is a privilege. A lot of us feel safe in survival mode. It also helps to build your confidence when you win a lot!
The first year I tried triple jump, after being encouraged by a friend, I broke the provincial record. People are a little more receptive to you, even as a black person, and more likely to invite you into their VIP rooms when you have gold around your neck. It builds your confidence when you can use your abilities to gain attention and create opportunities.
Representation is so important in health, fitness and sports when it comes to South Asian women. Growing up, I rarely saw South Asian women immersed in sports and would be surprised/wondered why I wouldn’t see more of us out there. I was fortunate to have come from a family with a sports background and parents who encouraged me to take part in physical activity.
As I matured, I realized there were so many stereotypes and barriers holding South Asian women back from the fitness world; they were told to focus on school, get married, learn to cook and clean, and have kids and take care of the family. But, there was never a push on taking care of their fitness and overall health! This had been happening for so long, but over the last handful of years there have been changes – slowly but surely. South Asian women are getting the courage to step outside the norms and create their own identities, and it makes me so happy to see more of us in the fitness world. We have a long way to go, but the seeds are being planted for the current and future generations.
It was not easy for myself to pursue sports and fitness, but I didn’t allow myself to steer from my passions and it has had a positive impact on the community. I have been on a mission to spread more awareness on health and fitness, and the community is being open-minded, supportive and learning along the way.
No matter what skin colour you are, everyone deserves to feel and be their best, and I highly believe fitness helps you in all areas of life!
Catch Alana, Devon and Dilpreet on Canada’s Ultimate Challenge, airing Thursdays on CBC TV and CBC Gem!
Join us for an exclusive online event on March 29 as the three women share their journeys through the world of sports and fitness, advice for women looking to follow a similar career path or who need a little inspiration, and their experience of what it’s been like competing on the show. Learn more!