It’s amazing how much a little sibling rivalry can propel someone to greatness.
Getting into wrestling just a couple of years ago after her brother took up the sport, Dimitra Russell has had a very rapid rise in the sport — to the extent that she just returned home from the recent 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Saskatchewan with a pair of gold medals to her credit.
Russell, a 15-year-old going into Grade 11 at Archbishop Jordan High School, had zero expectations that taking up the sport on a lark would end up leading to podium appearances at a major event in such short order.
“My little brother tried out and I went to one of his practices and really liked the coach and all of the athletes and decided to try it,” said Russell, who trains with the local Strathcona Wrestling Club. “I wasn’t even expecting to go to all of these camps these years, let alone make it onto Team Alberta through the trials and go to the Games. It has been such an awesome experience.”
Russell helped Alberta to a Team Event gold medal in the female side of the draw and then went on to win individual gold as well in her own 69 kg class.
“My third match was against a girl from Saskatchewan and I lost 6-4 and was also pinned,” she said. “However, I came up against that same girl in the gold medal match and ended up winning 10-0, which was crazy. That felt pretty good. It was really encouraging. I never really thought I couple win a pair of gold medals at something like this. The team was so supportive of everyone, whether it was a win or a loss. Winning as a team was really nice, to have people on your side like that. Everyone was super-excited for you.”
Medals aside, just getting to go to a Games in the first place had its own rewards.
“It was really fun with all of the friendships that I made,” she said. “The coaches were really supportive and I had family out there to cheer me on. It was an experience that I wish I could go again and get to do all over again.”
With so many positives under her belt in such a short period of time, wrestling has vaulted up Russell’s list of priorities.
“I’m training with an Edmonton club now and the University of Alberta coach has been asking me to come to some practices and to train with them,” she said. “I’m now hoping this will lead to a scholarship of some kind down the line. That’s my main goal right now. I’ve also started helping to coach the younger kids. I really enjoy doing that. They look up to you, which is so neat. I feel like a role model almost, which is crazy considering where I was just a couple of years ago.”