Ava Hamelin began wrestling only last year, but she quickly found her footing in the sport and the newcomer is already a regular on podiums.
This week, she returned to Kahnawake from the first tournaments of the season with not one but two silver medals around her neck – one from the Bishop Ryan Early Bird Tournament in Hamilton on November 16, and the other from the Independent Wrestling Club Tournament in Brampton on November 18, where she competed in the 79-80 KG category.
“I already feel so much more motivated for all the next tournaments,” said Hamelin, 16.
She credits her teammates for being a steadfast support system where the athletes are constantly offering advice from one another and helping push each other forward. “It makes me feel so much stronger. It’s such a great environment,” she said.
“Being able to have this new family that I found in sports really inspired me to keep going,” she said.
She was the sole Kahnawa’kehró:non from the Kanien’kehá:ka Tehontatie:nas Mohawk Wrestling Club to participate.
“She’d been quite a pleasant gift,” said her coach, Peter Montour. He noticed Hamelin stood out quite early on for her sportsmanship skills both on and off the mat.
“Ava really worked hard. She’s shown her dedication towards the sport and wanted to improve. She’s really good at reflecting,” said Montour, referring to her ability to look back on her mistakes and identify areas of improvement.
Even though the silver wins gave Hamelin a boost, she said even losses have their advantages in terms of learning experience.
She trains with the Howard S. Billings’ team and at the National Training Centre, racking up anywhere between six and 10 hours of training per week. She will also soon begin training at Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) on Mondays.
In February, Hamelin secured a gold at the Quebec Olympic Wrestling Federation provincial championship, and in March she won silver at the 2023 Canadian Wrestling Championships for her age group held in Vancouver. Come summer, she brought back a bronze medal from the Indigenous Games in July.
“Ava is probably one of our best chances to make the Canada Games in 2025, so we want to really support her,” said Montour.
He recalls participating in the Bishop Ryan tournament back when he used to coach at KSS, but hasn’t gone since the late 1990s. This was their first time back since then.
“Ava wrestling in that tournament and coming out with a silver medal was a verification,” he said. He also brought two other wrestlers but said that had he had the funds, he would have taken even more athletes.
For Hamelin, the constant push to strive for improvement and the sport’s routine are aspects she enjoys. And it seeps into all parts of her every day – eating well, working out, staying sharp – setting the path for a healthy lifestyle, she said.
“There’s always going to be something that you have to overcome, a hurdle that you have to jump over, so it’s constantly learning.”
This article was originally published in print on Friday, November 24, in issue 32.47 of The Eastern Door.