St. Catharines native and Brock Badgers wrestler Mia Friesen has been awarded funding and an accelerated path to the Olympics after impressing scouts at the RBC Training Ground national final. Photo credit: Kate Dockeray
Her coach calls her a rare athlete.
St. Catharines native and Brock Badgers wrestler Mia Friesen has been awarded funding and an accelerated path to the Olympics after impressing scouts at the RBC Training Ground national final.
Friesen, who recently placed 5th at the World U23 Wrestling Championships, was one of more than 2,200 athletes (aged 14-25) to participate in this year’s RBC Training Ground, an annual cross-country talent search run in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Sport Institute.
Only 100 athletes were invited to the final, held in Toronto on Dec. 2, and only 30 of the finalists were selected for funding.
“Mia really seems to have a genetic aptitude for high performance, with both her parents being high performance athletes,” said Chris Woodcroft, High Performance Director of Wrestling Canada.
“Our hunch about her abilities can not only be seen on the mat, where she has excelled at Brock University [defending U Sports 57kg champion] and with our national team, but also in her raw abilities as shown in the RBC program testing,” Woodcroft continued. “We’re really excited to use this funding to help Mia reach her full potential.”
RBC Training Ground sees athletes from a wide range of sports perform core speed, strength, power and endurance tests in front of Olympic talent scouts from nine different sports to find the sport for which they are most suited. The complete list of 30 athletes selected for funding is available at RBCTrainingGround.ca.
“Some of the athletes who participate in RBC Training Ground are looking to re-energize or boost an Olympic dream in a sport they are already participating in,” said Evan MacInnis, Technical Director, RBC Training Ground. “Others participate with the hope of being discovered and directed toward an Olympic sport they may have never considered. But they all rely on raw athleticism to impress our sport partners and compete for funding.”
Brock Badgers wrestling coach Marty Calder summed things up best when contacted by The Niagara Independent.
“Mia is a rare athlete,” Calder explained. “She has the ability to set the highest of goals and reach them, Olympics included. The transformational process is underway, but is complex and takes time. She has embraced this challenge with courage and optimism. We look forward to being a part of this journey.”
Funding is administered by the participating National Sport Organization bringing the athlete into its system, and is used for things like coaching, transportation, travel, equipment, and nutrition. NSO partners include Boxing Canada; Canoe Kayak Canada; Climbing Escalade Canada; Cycling Canada Cyclisme; Freestyle Canada, Luge Canada; Rowing Canada Aviron, Rugby Canada; Speed Skating Canada; Triathlon Canada; Volleyball Canada, Boxing Canada; Climbing Canada; Triathlon Canada; and Wrestling Canada.
In addition to her success on the mat, Friesen, 21, has excelled in both lacrosse and athletics (hurdles and heptathlon).
“The Olympics are my dream, so competing at the RBC Training Ground national final was a great opportunity for me,” said Friesen. “I’m all-in for anything to help me grow and get closer to my dream.”
Now in its eighth year, RBC Training Ground is a nation-wide talent identification and athlete-funding program dedicated to finding and supporting the next generation of Canadian Olympians. Since its inception in 2016, the program has tested 14,000 athletes at free local events across Canada with more than 2,000 being identified by NSO partners as having elite potential.
The recognition is significant, as 13 RBC Training Ground athletes have already competed at two Olympic Games, and together they’ve brought home a collective seven medals. Program alumni Kelsey Mitchell and Marion Thénault are among the medal winners, both of whom had never tried their Olympic sport before showing up at an RBC Training Ground event only a few years before their Olympic debut.
Friesen, who recently joined the Niagara Sports Report on Newstalk 610 CKTB, is excited to continue to pursue her Olympic dream with the funding she’s receiving from RBC.
“The money I received is funding for me, but it’s being sent to Wrestling Canada,”” said Friesen. “But it’s basically going to go towards me for anything I need for training, whether that’s paying for a trip, or equipment. I’m definitely going to use it for the cost of travel because wrestling takes you to the craziest places around the world.”
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.