By RANDI CLARKE
A Conestoga College student has been named Cambridge athlete of the year.
At the 40th annual Cambridge Sports Awards on Nov. 1, Ashley Nichols, who competes in martial arts, beat out six other athletes – runners Nathan Brannen and Jordan Sherwood, water skiers Jason McClintock and Whitney McClintock, gymnast Victoria Moors and rower Carling Zeeman.
The event recognizes those athletes who are involved in individual and team sports at a provincial, national or international level.
Nichols, a second-year police foundations student at Conestoga, had been nominated twice before for the Tim Turow Award for athlete of the year.
The honour is just one of many for Nichols. In the past year alone, she has won three gold medals.
Last month, at the 2013 Sportaccord World Combat Games in St. Petersburg, Russia, she won a bronze medal.
Nichols is the first woman from a First Nations’ tribe to win a world professional title, which she did in Thailand. She belongs to the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Oneida Nation.
Although she loves competing, Nichols said her main goal right now is to graduate from college and then maybe attend university now that her competitions are done for the year.
“For the last few years with being a national team member, I’ve been called away a couple times for a few tournaments and that kind of affects my attendance marks,” she said. “Now that the competitions have finished for the year, for me, I can focus on my grades and my course and everything.”
She said her training actually helps her with her police foundations program as well.
“With martial arts or any type of combat sport or any type of fitness, it helps with balancing your stress levels and it helps with giving you energy. It helps with stress management – I think that’s important too and it helps keep you fit.”
Nichols has been doing muay thai for six and a half years and said that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is still a little new for her.
“When I say new, I mean for the amount of knowledge there is to gain in both. I’ve been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for three and a half years now, so I feel like that’s new.”
The key to all this? “It’s always finding a balance between everything that you’re doing.”
Nichols, originally from Toronto, moved to Cambridge to be closer to her coach.
She has a lot of respect for her coaches, referring to them as her mentors.
“In martial art sport we always pay homage to our teachers because they spend so much time and they believe their students will do well,” Nichols said.
“My coaches, Kru Chris and my Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Kru Jeff – I’m very thankful to them for all the effort and all the time we’ve been together doing this.”
By RANDI CLARKE