WATCH ABOVE: Flora Kupsch is taking aim at the World Championships after recovering from a gunshot wound. Kent Morrison has her story.
EDMONTON — Flora Kupsch spends her day surrounded by guns. She’s the co-owner of the Wild West Shooting Centre in West Edmonton Mall and considered a firearm expert.
It’s quite an accomplishment for a woman who grew up afraid of guns.
“I always had a fear with guns,” said Kupsch, who grew up in the Philippines. “Four brothers didn’t help… it kind of stuck with me until I was an adult.”
As an adult, she moved to Canada. That’s when she met her future husband Ken Kupsch, a competitive shooter known by his shooter alias ‘Kanada Kid.’ Flora would travel to competitions with Ken, watch and even keep score. Still, she was terrified of guns. Eventually she refused to go on any more trips to watch Ken compete.
“He finally convinced me,” said Kupsch.
“He said ‘you’re shooting. You’re going to learn how to shoot.'”
Kupsch reluctantly agreed, but soon found she had a knack for the sport. She adopted the name ‘Kanada Girl’ and began competing in Cowboy Action Shooting, just like Ken. But, she wasn’t just competing, she was winning.
“Montana State Championship I beat everybody in a top gun shoot off. Including Ken, ‘Kanada Kid’,” said Kupsch.
Flora and Ken opened the Wild West Shooting Centre together and she was on track for a world championship when her career was shot down.
She flew to the Philippines for a competition. Afterwards she attended a party away from the shooting range.
“This guy showed up with a shotgun,” said Kupsch.
“It’s a (Winchester) 1897, which I’m very familiar with because I shoot with it.”
Kupsch says she asked the man if the gun was loaded and he showed her that it was not. Hours later he was sitting across from her when the gun went off, hitting her in both her feet. She was rushed to surgery in the Philippines and had five more operations once she got home.
“I didn’t walk for a couple years. I was in crutches for another two,” said Kupsch. “So four years I was crippled.
Now she is making a comeback.
“The pain doesn’t stop me,” said Kupsch. “My doctor told me that I will not wear heels again. I told him he’s not God and I will show it to him that I will walk again and I did.”
In fact, Kupsch says heels are the only kind of shoes she can wear that don’t hurt her feet. At 55 years old, Kupsch is back competing. She hasn’t won yet, but she has received top prize for best dressed. She has also been invited to participate in the world championships on June 15 in Albuquerque, NM.
“It never occurred to me that I will never shoot again,” said Kupsch. “It never come to my mind that I wouldn’t see the gun anymore.”
Kanada Girl: Back in the Saddle
Flora Kupsch’s comeback story has been made into a short documentary by Edmonton film-maker Rebecca Campbell. Campbell won a grant from Film and Video Arts Society Alberta.
She and co-producer/director of photography Fredrick Kroetsch followed Kupsch to shooting competitions in Florida and Arizona. Campbell had the idea to follow Kupsch even before she learned about her journey back from injury.
“I’ve known Flora as an acquaintance for years through my friend Natasha, her daughter. I didn’t know her back story. I had no idea,” said Campbell.
“I just remembered that feisty, firecracker personality.”
That personality certainly shines through in the 10-minute film.
“No matter how tough life is you can keep on going,” said Campbell. “And you can have fun doing it.”
Campbell and Kroetsch had just two months to make the film, but will spend the next year entering it in various film festivals around the world.
“It never gets tiring following her around, but I think she gets tired of me following her around,” laughed Campbell. “She’s having a nice little break now.”