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Innisfail adaptive athlete's long, triumphant road to the top

Wacey Morrison rises heroically above tragic accident in 2017 to become second best in the world with a firm eye to become number 1

INNISFAIL – Six days a week Wacey Morrison is up at 4:30 a.m. to train at Olds’ Mountain View Strength and Conditioning.

After a robust workout, he drives back to Innisfail to take care of business. Morrison, an Innisfail resident since 2021, is the owner of a local STIHL dealership.

And when the 37-year-old local businessman comes home he’s back training again where he and his wife Kayla, a fitness instructor, work out in their impressive home gym in their garage.

Morrison, a former firefighter and emergency medical technician, has plenty of energy and confidence to maintain his rigorous training regimen.

He wants to be the very best in the world. In early December he came second in a world championship tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Morrison has been paralyzed from the waist down since May of 2017 when he was seriously injured in an off-road dirt bike accident near Fort McMurray.

“I kind of woke up right after the accident and realized I couldn't sit up. I couldn't move my leg,” said Morrison. “The ambulance picked me up and then flew me to Edmonton.

“And then I had surgery, and I started the whole rehab process.”

Morrison’s long road to recovery had begun. His life as a firefighter was over.

“I'm paralyzed from what, my belly button down,” said Morrison.

In 2018 he moved back to Olds, where he was born and raised.

With the support of his wife and parents, Marvin and Koreen Morrison, owners of Trackside Sales & Service Olds, he found the right path forward, however daunting it may have first appeared.

“It was a lot of rehab, getting out of the hospital because it’s pretty terrible in there,” said Morrison, who soon found the right rehab environment at Calgary’s Synaptic Health. “They helped me a lot to get independent again.

“And once I was independent I started back in the gym. I found this was a big help with my independence, being stronger and fitter,” he added. “It gave me the confidence to go out and do things and knowing that if I fell out of my chair I can get back into it or I can pick things up and carry them.

“I can get in and out of a vehicle,” he said. “I don't need special things to do it.”

Today Morrison, with the love and support from his wife and parents, is a successful businessman, lives in a beautiful westside Innisfail home, and came within a whisker of becoming a world champion athlete.

And he’s not giving up on the latter.

Always athletic, he began his new journey with CrossFit workouts; a branded fitness regime that involves constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.

He personally labels it as general physical preparedness; different exercises and tasks completed under a time constraint, anywhere from three minutes to a half hour, or for an amount of reps.

Morrison seized it, as the accessibility was a perfect fit.

“There's no machines or anything to it. Anybody can do it, and it's infinitely adaptable to your needs, and your abilities,” said Morrison. “Because it has you doing things that you would do in in real life within a workout.”

He would later learn his new training would not only become beneficial for basic living but in athletic competition.

“In competition they'll have a box, and you'll be on the floor, and you have to transfer up to the box for reps,” said Morrison. “Or you'll have to crawl along the ground and move dumbbells. We had to crawl 25 metres one time and move 50 pound dumbbells.”
However, the times and terminology have changed.

Today, Morrison and his fellow CrossFit-inspired athletes are not known as handicapped. Instead they are members of the “adaptive community” who can become seated athletes.

And there are high-level competitions for seated athletes of the world-wide adaptive community, and they are fast becoming as respected as the ones for Paralympic athletics.

In recent years the CrossFit field brought in the adaptive community to include athletes in their main competitions, such as the WheelWod Games hosted in Raleigh from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.

It was in fact the world CrossFit championships, with hundreds of athletes competing, including Morrison.

The competition had 12 workouts over four days; three workouts a day, including ones for swimming, rowing and barbells.

“It’s the only event in the world for us. It's the only event that is adaptive only,” said Morrison.

He competed against 10 other athletes from around the world in the men’s category of Seated 1: Without Hip Function.

It was his fifth attempt at the world championship. His previous best placing was fourth in 2019.

And in 2023 he moved up to second best.

In February, he starts the process once again to get to number 1. The road has been long and hard for Wacey Morrison but ultimately uplifting.

“I was so active and strong as a firefighter and I wanted to keep that. I just kind of put my head down and just worked and used the gym as a distraction and an escape to not have to think about being in a wheelchair,” said Morrison, with a firm eye on 2024. “The competition is only going to be bigger.

“So yes, let's just get back to work and try and get first place.”

Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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