Amber Bowman continues to amaze with astounding achievements

Originally published on Women Talk Sports:

For an individual as accomplished as Amber Bowman, the calendar year of 2017 was one where she found new and inspiring ways to make her mark in the world of sport. While Bowman has worn many hats in her sporting odyssey, from trainer to women’s ice hockey competitor, entrepreneur to world champion firefighter, the most relevant may be the one of role model.

Continuing to add to a superlative legacy in competitive firefighting, which was established six years earlier when Bowman, a member of Central York Fire Services, became the first rookie to win a world championship, the achievements to follow were just as breathtaking.

Garnering a 22nd world championship in Louisville, Kentucky, the hometown of Muhammad Ali, it was a fitting backdrop for a competitor like Bowman, who like Ali, is truly the greatest of her sport. With a body of work that also mirrors the incredible legacy of Michael Phelps, who has 20+ medals in Summer Games competition, Bowman has firmly entrenched herself as an iconic figure integral to the early mythos of competitive firefighting.

Bowman (center) enjoying a 22nd World Championship at Louisville, Kentucky. Credit: Bronko Habjan

Breaking the two-minute mark in the women’s individual race, part of Bowman’s legacy has also involved shining in team play, another facet of competitive firefighting that she has dominated. Combining forces with the compelling Carla King Penman and Jalene Kara Cartwright in years past, they have represented the benchmark in women’s team competition, establishing standards with every victory that current teams aspire to emulate.

“Yes, it was exciting to win this past 2017. I not only broke my personal record; I broke the 2:00 mark at Worlds which has only been achieved by one other female. Every victory is different, and each one since the first means that much more to me as I never know when my last race will be.
The females are getting stronger and faster which is amazing for the fire service and women overall. I love how this sport brings out the best version of each person as they try and achieve their own goals.”

Undoubtedly, the road towards such glories represented the character that makes Bowman such a venerated figure in women’s sport. Suffering a tremendous setback, attributed to a hose pack malfunction at Bowman’s first FireFit Competition of the season, defending her title would require going the extra mile, as she needed to win to qualify for the Canadian Championships.

As the path towards the Canadian nationals championships took place in her home province of Ontario, involving stops east of Toronto in Oshawa, along with Canada’s capital, Ottawa for the Canadian National FireFit Championships, she not only maintained tremendous composure under such pressure, she excelled under it, displaying the qualities that make her a world champion. Considering that one of Bowman’s maxims is ‘We do not have to perfect physically or nutritionally, we just have to be better than we were yesterday’, her triumph in Ottawa was the embodiment of such a profound philosophy.

In between her qualifying race weekends, Bowman sandwiched in a visit to Yukon Territory, accepting an invitation to Camp Ember. Such an event was testament to Bowman’s dedication in helping provide the confidence for women to achieve their goals. Camp Ember served as an educational opportunity to allow women the opportunity to acquire valuable skills towards become a firefighter.

The chance to be able to win another world championship in 2017, simultaneously representing the pinnacle of achievement while adding to a proud legacy that is truly once-in-a-lifetime, it is only part of what makes Bowman one of the most tremendous female athletes of her generation. That sense of pride is accentuated by the fact that Bowman has also paid it forward, serving as a sponsor for nine women, enabling them to engage in competition or pursue their studies.

Having laid a winning foundation for the sport, while contributing towards the exciting possibilities of an empowering future ahead, it is a privilege that Bowman has never taken for granted. Absorbing every momentous instant, appreciating the opportunity that her peak performances allow a dual role built on inspiration, there were even greater moments in the unfolding narrative of Bowman’s most memorable year.

Complementing such a remarkable run in Louisville was a highly notable achievement that would launch Bowman into unprecedented territory. For those who had been unfamiliar with her splendid body of work, Bowman gained new acclaim with her appearance on the highly popular Dr. Oz show in December.
Among more than 1,000 hopeful applicants, Bowman emerged as one of four successful candidates, vying for a chance to win the prestigious prize of being one of two victorious trainers.

The origins for this newest odyssey in Bowman’s incredible sporting endeavors also took place south of the border. Appearing at a convention which took place in Salt Lake City, Utah during the summer of 2017, which was sponsored by USANA, it served as the spark. For Bowman, the products distributed by USANA have become an essential component to her daily routine. Worth nothing, the company has not only earned a reputation for providing the highest quality micronutrients, there is even a toothpaste which features vitamins.

Bowman, one of four finalists for the Dr. Oz Trainer Competition. Image obtained from:

First learning about the opportunity for the Dr. Oz competition at said convention, submitting a video, along with the completion of an online form, Bowman’s charisma and empowering persona definitely shone. As a side note, this is not the first time that Bowman applied for an opportunity to appear on the small screen. Along with former Toronto Furies teammate Erika Vanderveer, the two applied for the chance to be participants in the inaugural season of Amazing Race Canada.

By early November, Bowman had been the recipient of life-changing news. Advised that she was among four finalists, including Julie Briggs, Cookie Miller and Sergio Rojas, it had launched this tremendously fantastic firefighter into unprecedented popularity, becoming a household name.

Although Bowman, who majored in Exercise Science at Ohio State University (where she played Division I hockey for head coach Jackie Barto) had always been dedicated to peak physical condition, the launch of her Fit by Fire enterprise in 2013 was born out of necessity. Conceived as a personal training service which would help finance the cost of competition, Bowman definitely held a solid series of credentials.

From occupation in Florida where she trained Major League Baseball athletes, along with employment in former NFL wide receiver Cris Carters FAST program, Bowman had even worked as an elite trainer for Canadian Forces Base Borden. Serendipitously, CFB Borden would serve as Bowman’s first exposure to firefighting, as she trained numerous members of this brave and noble profession. Encouraged to complete annual fitness test, it marked an exciting new chapter for Bowman.

Running parallel to her career as a firefighter was the chance to rekindle her love of hockey. Competing in the budding Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Bowman initially skating for the Brampton Thunder, where Bowman called Winter Games gold medalist Cheryl Pounder her defense partner. Moving on to a pair of other clubs in the Greater Toronto Area; the now defunct Burlington Barracudas and the Toronto Furies, Bowman would also appear in the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Among her teammates with the Furies, Amanda Shaw would also follow the route of firefighter after hanging up her skates.

Bowman in her Fit by Fire paraphernalia. Image obtained from:

Although Bowman is no longer in the professional women’s ice hockey ranks, she remains active in the game. From stints as an official to competing at the Senior A level, capturing an OWHA championship, Bowman has also incorporated facets of her training philosophy in Fit By Fire, to blend into effective workout strategies for hockey players.

As a side note, Bowman has also worked as an instructor for the Aurora Panthers junior team, with an emphasis on skills development. Part of a team consisting of 22 female coaches, providing instruction to over 600 young players, it represents Bowman’s passion to empower and encourage young females to follow their dreams, incorporating confidence on the ice and cultivating positive life-skills off-the-ice.

“I enjoy connecting and empowering these teams and clients. Everyone has their own goals and dreams. I am just a little piece of their journey to help them show up as the best version of themselves.”

Bowman’s best version of herself was definitely evident as she was one of Dr. Oz’s Trainers of the Year, the other victorious trainer being Cookie Miller. Announced on January 10, 2018, it is the type of achievement that is destined to make this year even more memorable for such an accomplished individual. The chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with an incredibly remarkable person such as Dr. Oz is one that is reciprocal, as Bowman has found great motivation.

Collage of images obtained from:

In an era when women are starting to make significant inroads in all facets of society, helping to shape their own destiny while their positive attitude and indomitable spirit can spur the pursuit of others ambitions, Bowman is truly a real-life Wonder Woman. While the rich narrative of her athletic career holds the potential for so many more great moments ahead, the achievements of 2017 have served as her finest hour, demonstrating what makes Bowman a world-class athlete and person.

“The entire process of the show and contest has been very humbling! I have been supported by people from my early childhood years to people I see daily. The love and support has been overwhelming at times but I could not have won without everyone helping.

Dr. Oz is an amazing individual who truly cares about his viewers, staff and individuals on his show. Hes funny and lives a healthy lifestyle which is admirable. I cannot wait for the journey ahead and hope to educate and empower each one of you to achieve your health goals and dreams for 2018!”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Personal best provides Amber Bowman with memorable victory

Having already won four consecutive national championships in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, Amber Bowman is one of the competition’s shining stars. One of the most underrated stars in sports, Bowman is a highly deserving sporting icon worthy of a bigger audience.

Extending her remarkable legacy beyond national championships, Bowman has enjoyed multiple world championships, establishing herself as more than a legend, but a hero and role model as well. A competition in which fire fighters battle the clock in a series of simulated emergency situations, the demanding event is testament to the hard work and sacrifice required to take part in such an occupation.

Taking into account that fire fighting has traditionally been a male-dominated occupation, remarkable women such as Bowman are helping to break barriers. For young women in the communities of Aurora and Newmarket, where Bowman proudly serves, she may inspire them to take on such a career.

Bowman’s first foray into sport involved a memorable run as an ice hockey player with the Ohio State Buckeyes, where she also served as captain. In addition, Bowman also spent several seasons in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and won an OWHA Senior title with the Aurora Panthers. As a side note, former Burlington Barracudas teammate Amanda Shaw is another female hockey hero that has entered firefighting as a post-playing career.

Image obtained from:

Image obtained from:

Despite accomplishing so much, one goal had eluded Bowman. Entering the 2015 edition of the FireFit National Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, this would prove to be a key motivational factor for the member of Central York Firefighting Services. In the four years prior, Bowman had never broken the two minute barrier. During the 2014 season, she had mentioned it on social media as a target she was aiming for.

Although it was five years in the making, Bowman set a personal best and a new event (and world) record as the first female to
break the elusive two-minute barrier in the Firefighter Combat Challenge. The fans on-hand in Kitchener were witnessing history, observing the presence of a legend, whose record time will inspire future generations of female competitors to reach Bowman’s hallowed benchmark.

Setting the new gold standard with a time of 1:58, it stands as one of the finest sporting achievements of 2015. The element that made Bowman’s performance so much more heroic was the fact that she suffered from a concussion in May. Medically cleared in early August, her Amazonian-like commitment to training paid remarkable dividends. Finishing in second was Swift Current’s Karla Cairns, while North Vancouver’s Carla King Penman finished third. Of note, Bowman and Penman hold the world record for in the women’s tandem, set in 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Suddenly, five years of hard work, the culmination of sweat, tears and the remarkable endurance through pain vanished, as all that remained was glory and jubilation. Assembling one of the great female sporting dynasties in modern Canadian history, Bowman proudly proclaimed on social media, “Dream It, Believe It, ACHIEVED IT!”


Two-sport star Amber Bowman continues to inspire with world class performances

Having excelled in both hockey and in the world firefighter challenge, Amber Bowman is a force to be reckoned with. Since March 2013, her athletic journey has endured various ups and downs, but her passion to compete has never withered.

Despite being hit in the hand with a puck while competing for the Toronto Furies women’s hockey club at the 2013 Clarkson Cup tournament, Bowman’s toughness and resiliency won out. Returning to the ice for the next game with slight discomfort was more than just testament to her character, but an inspiration for her teammates.

Perhaps more impressive was the winning streak she assembled a few months later at numerous firefighter challenges, both nationally and internationally. Known as the toughest two minutes in sports, it involves a remarkable commitment and personal sacrifice on the part of Bowman. Factoring in time, travel, gym fees, entry fees, flights and accommodation, along with shift changes as a member of the Central York Fire Department (located north of Toronto), the hours involved incorporates a unique lifestyle.

Quite possibly the world’s most accomplished competitor in the World Firefighter Challenge, the hard work has definitely paid off. A recent competition in Dubai cemented one of the most impressive Canadian sporting legacies, male or female. Dubai was certainly the culmination of a championship streak that continues to wonder and amaze.

Leading up to the competition in Dubai, Bowman established herself as the one to beat. In autumn 2013, Bowman successfully defended all four of her world championships in Las Vegas, site of the World Firefighter Combat Challenge in Las Vegas. The four disciplines in which she emerged victorious included: female individual, female tandem, coed tandem and relay events.

Donned in full bunker gear and breathing apparatus, part of the demanding course at the competition included Bowman carrying a 50-pound hose up six flights of stairs. Competing on an American course, which is longer than a Canadian course, she finished the course in two minutes and 14 seconds.

For her efforts, she was also invited to the Cotton Bowl football game on January 4, 2014 as part of a pre game display in front of 80,000 fans. Residing north of Toronto, the snow and the elements represented restrictions on her ability to train for the event, which included an uphill dummy drag. Despite the setback, Bowman employed the use of various CrossFit exercises in order to make her physically prepared for such a prestigious opportunity.

Following the Cotton Bowl experience, Bowman was part of a historic group of competitors at the inaugural UAE World Firefighter Challenge. Held in Abu Dhabi, it was the first competition of its kind held outside of North America. While the stairways for the event were constructed of industrial scaffolding, enhanced by a vertical structural pole running between the risers, Bowman maintained her championship ways, winning two titles at the event.

Such jubilation for Bowman was exceeded by an even more impressive performance off the field of competition. Of note, two women from the Abu Dhabi police force were competing in the event. Bowman donated her time by helping to train these competitors. All competitors at the event were cheering for these two ground breaking women as they were wearing their burkas under their bunker gear. For these “rookies” in the event, it is certainly a unique privilege when they can gain advice, let alone training from a world champion.

For Bowman, training is a true labour of love. Part of that commitment includes her enterprise, Fit by Fire, in which she helps others achieve better health through her fitness program. With a degree in Exercise Science from Ohio State University (where she was also a Big Ten Scholar Athlete), complemented by her past position as a trainer at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Bowman is using her expertise to help people reach their goals, providing her with her greatest reward.

In true championship form, Bowman is very humble, always looking on how she positively impacts others. Although Bowman’s goals include being able to break the two-minute barrier (her fastest time ever was 2:01:00), her drive and ambition are not only a great source of encouragement, but make her a winner in life. Always believing that she can be better and faster, both physically and mentally, her commitment to fitness and success is an inspiration for anyone who wants to bring about positive change in their lives.

Two-sport star athletes a defining feature for growing CWHL

One of the unique aspects about the CWHL is the fact that many of its players come from various athletic backgrounds. While there is no question that the character and dedication that composes the make-up among the competitors of the CWHL is essential for any athlete, the budding league has definitely seen its players excel in a diverse number of sports.

CWHL co-founders Sami Jo Small and Jennifer Botterill lead the way. Small competed in track and field meets at the Pac-10 level for the famed Stanford University in California. While growing up in Winnipeg, Botterill had an opportunity to try out for the Canadian national junior basketball team in 1996. Luckily for hockey fans, she traded in her sneakers for skates.

The game of softball is no stranger to some of the women in the CWHL. Noemie Marin and Sommer West both competed in the Summer Games with the Canadian national Softball Team. West was part of the Canadian contingent that competed at Sydney 2000. Later that year, West was also a member of the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team. Marin was the only player from Quebec that was part of Canada’s roster for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. In later years, she would set the CWHL record for most points in one game with ten.

Marin high-fiving a teammate at the Beijing Summer Games (Image by: Clive Rose/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Marin high-fiving a teammate at the Beijing Summer Games (Image by: Clive Rose/Getty Images AsiaPac)

In addition to Noemie Marin, the Montreal Stars have a handful of athletes with very impressive athletic credentials. Stars goaltender Kim St. Pierre (the winningest goalie in IIHF history) was once a promising soccer star. Her teammate, Emmanuelle Blais competes in the Cross Fit circuit, while Carolyne Prevost has a black belt in taek won do, once competing at the provincial level in Ontario.

Another Stars competitor, Dominique Thibault is the 2013 world champion in Red Bull Crashed Ice. Having competed in the inaugural Red Bull women’s championships in 2012, Thibault had the fastest time in the qualifier. Ironically, Fannie Desforges, a Montreal Stars draft pick in 2012 would go on to capture the 2012 title. Thibault’s presence is not only breaking ground in the nascent sport, but providing another avenue for women’s hockey players past and present.

Thibault (centre) and Desforges (right) at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships (Photo credit: Patrick Garant)

Thibault (centre) and Desforges (right) at the 2013 Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships (Photo credit: Patrick Garant)

One of the league’s most promising stars, Vicki Bendus of the Brampton Thunder was a competitive golfer at Mercyhurst College. While she also won the 2010 Patty Kazmaier Award with Mercyhurst’s hockey program, gracing the fairways and putting greens established Bendus as a year-round competitive athlete for her school.

CWHL veteran defender Amber Bowman is a world champion in her second sport of choice. Competing in the World Firefighting Combat Challenge, Bowman not only claimed three world titles in 2012, but set several new records. Breaking new ground is nothing new for Bowman. One of the first female firefighters in her region, Bowman is a role model hero that exemplifies character.

Image obtained from:

Image obtained from:

Of all the sports that the women of the CWHL have competed in, none may be as unique as 2013 CWHL Draft pick Julie Paetsch. Selected in the tenth round by the Alberta Hockey Club, the native of Lanigan, Saskatchewan is the first draft prospect in the league’s history to have competed in women’s tackle football. While playing hockey at the University of Saskatchewan, she would add tackle football to her athletic endeavors. A two-time silver medalist for Canada at the IFAF Women’s World Tackle Football Championships, she is also a three-time WWCFL champion with the Saskatoon Valkyries.

Paetsch being represented as Canada's player of the game in the gold medal game of the 2013 IFAF Women's Worlds (Image obtained from Facebook)

Paetsch being represented as Canada’s player of the game in the gold medal game of the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds (Image obtained from Facebook)

While two-sport stars tend to be more common in the realm of men’s sports (Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders defined a generation by playing pro football and baseball), it is equally important to recognize the role that women have played. Following in the footsteps of legendary Canadian female two-sport stars such as Cindy Klassen (who once played hockey for the Canadian Under-22 team) and Clara Hughes, the two-sport stars of the CWHL are carrying the torch and continuing to forge a legacy upon which the next generation of female athletes can reach for.