The 2023 graduating class of the University of Saskatchewan's Nursing program walked the convocation platform yesterday, but Oungre's Alexis Ashworth did not attend, despite completing her degree in December.
Instead, she's in Bloomington, Indiana currently, training with her weightlifting coach in between Olympic qualifying meets, and her diploma will need to be mailed out to her.
"I'm taking a break from going to work as a nurse right now, so I'm basically doing full-time weightlifting," she shared. "I finished school in December, and the Olympic qualifiers started in December, so it's kind of one of those things that it was like, well, I could write my test, and go be a nurse, or I could take a little break and fulfill this, do this and give it my best shot and just totally focus on it. So that's what I decided to do."
Ashworth, 24, said it was an intense final year, as it's pretty hands-on, and she was also honing her technique in the gym.
"I completed this degree, I have that to use, like say if I were to get injured or when this is all said and done, you can't be an athlete for the rest of your life, but the timing of it actually was really good for that purpose."
She said she has been training since before COVID.
"I had qualified for nationals, but that was canceled. Then the next year was online. But my goal was, the following year when the meets started to be in person again, I wanted to try to qualify for Team Canada."
Ashworth made the team, and then last summer she attended the Commonwealth Games. Read more HERE.
She then decided to see how far she could get with it.
"I know it's a short period of time, but it's a good time for me to do it, as weightlifting might not be in the 2028 Olympics as of now, so it might be my last chance to even give it a shot," she explained. "So I like totally shifted and I focused on weightlifting when I finished school."
"I treat it as a job now. So I'm living my dream, but it is a lot. I'm away from home like I'm living in the states most of the time. So I do take it very, very seriously."
Attempting to qualify for the Olympics has taken Ashworth to places she otherwise wouldn't have chosen to go, including going to Bogota, Colombia for World Championships in December, and to the Pan American Championships in Bariloche, Argentina in March. The next stop is Cuba. "They're kind of in like super random locations across the world, but it's incredible."
"If I were to make the Olympics, that would be like a major life dream goal. I would be totally satisfied with going to the Olympics, but it happened in such a short period of time that I think that if I can make the Olympics, then maybe there's more. Like, I'm still young. There are lots of weight lifters that they train until they're in their mid-30s, so I think it just depends on what happens in the next year. It's really hard to say right now."
Being away from her family in Saskatchewan has been tough, she noted, but she's never alone as she has other weightlifters with whom she travels to the different meets.
"I'll stay like six weeks at a time. So you form relationships here and you start to feel more welcome. It's a great place. It like reminds me of Saskatchewan."
Ashworth considers herself lucky for having the support she does for this aspiration. "I never thought a year ago that this would be happening. So yeah, life changes very quickly."
Having to secure her own personal sponsors for now, she said she hopes to be able to qualify for a stipend from Canadian Weightlifting.
"They go off your totals from the year before, like your year rankings, so last year overall in Canada I was like 10th or something and they give out seven cards to athletes. So now from my rankings from this year, I think I'm 3rd or 4th, so I'm hoping next year that I'll get monthly stipends, but, in the meantime, weight lifters really don't make money. A big challenge like you have to figure out some way how to make it work financially."
For now, Ashworth is busy working on qualifying for Paris 2024.
"You have to be top ten in the world in your weight class and currently I have not made the top 10," she noted. "The totals that I'm hitting in training are well on my way to make it, like, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make that, but it's like still going to be a very difficult next year. So we'll know by April of 2024. I think it's April 11th is the cut-off for who made the team."
She added she's working on her technique, attending training camps and the qualifying meets in the meantime, working with her US coach in Bloomington, and with her Canadian coach in Montreal.