Hometown Heroes: Celebrating the Special People who Drive our Local Sports Community
By City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner Mathieu Fleury
As Sports Commissioner, one of the best parts of my role is to promote sports in this City. I never tire of this, as I love this City and the opportunities it offers local and visiting athletes.
This passion is why I am excited to promote the Ontario Summer Indigenous Games, taking place here in Ottawa from July 28-31.
The Games are slated to take place in our nation’s capital on the traditional territories and ancestral homelands of the Algonquin Peoples, who have inhabited the region since immemorial.
According to Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario, the Games will see approximately 500 Indigenous youth from every region of Ontario attend the four-day competition.
One such athlete I had the pleasure to speak to is Arianna Wigwas, who will travel from Thunder Bay, territory of the Anishinabek, to compete in the Games. Arianna is an accomplished athlete with a strong love and talent for basketball – but also, as it turns out, incredible skills at volleyball, which she will be competing in when she arrives.
“I am super nervous and equally excited,” Arianna said about the Games. “It is nerve-wracking because you are competing, but I am so excited about coming to Ottawa – I have never been.”
The 18-year-old admitted that she was possibly one of the first to sign up for the event when she saw on Facebook that registration had opened.
“As soon as I saw that Ottawa was going to have the event, I said I had to go,” she said. “I just jumped at the chance.”
Arianna worked with her local coaches and team to help practice and work towards the upcoming Games – she said the difference and the reason she loves volleyball versus her other passion, basketball, is the mental game you also play.
“It is 50 per cent physical, 50 per cent mental. Basketball is fast, physical and aggressive. Volleyball, you have to think of the next moves and how that plays.”
For the future Queen’s University undergrad, she said the mental work is something she truly loves. The fact is that it is not only about controlling the ball but controlling how you react in the heat of the game.
“It is about trusting that not only that your hands will be there, where you need them, but that you are in control when you do,” she added.
A lifetime player from a family of athletes, Arianna said it was natural for her to love sports and to get into playing – including using it as a much-needed outlet during the pandemic lockdowns.
“We had a court, I had my sisters, and we played. I don’t know what I would have done without playing, honestly,” she said.
The OSIG allows Indigenous athletes to compete at a provincial level. The Games also serve as an identifier for athletes who aspire to compete at the North American Indigenous Games scheduled to take place in 2023.
Arianna said her ultimate goal is to compete at the North American Indigenous Games, which will be top of mind while she is in Ottawa competing.
The University of Ottawa will host the opening ceremony on July 28 and will also serve as a host for the Athletes Village, medal ceremonies and a closing ceremony.
The University of Ottawa will host three sports (basketball, soccer and volleyball), while softball takes place at Carlington Park and athletics at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.
And as for what Arianna is looking forward to most of all, aside from playing her sport – it is making sure she tries as many Beaver Tail flavours as possible. I can’t blame her for that.