Before she touched down last week in Prince Edward Island for the 2023 Canada Winter Games, 16-year-old Airdronian Emily Vigneault had the jitters. But when she won gold in the 60 kg female boxing division, all those nerves disappeared.

While there were six individuals from Alberta that were competing in boxing, Vigneault was the only female.

16-year-old Airdronian Emily Vigneault (center) won gold at the Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island last week. But her story is about more than just the podium. (Photo provided Emily Vigneault) 16-year-old Airdronian Emily Vigneault won gold at the Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island last week. But her story is about more than just the podium. (Photo provided by Emily Vigneault) 

"I really liked that I was able to be the first female boxer for Alberta to go forward in the Winter Games because I wanted to represent Alberta and also represent female boxing," she said. "[I wanted to show] that women can have a huge opportunity in these types of sports as well."

Her first match, the quarter-final, came on February 28 against Nova Scotian Faith Murphy. In that boxing match, Vigneault won by unanimous decision of the judges and garnered two points. in the semi-final, Vigneault went toe-to-toe with Quebecer Alessia Mansueto. She won once again by unanimous decision and racked up another two points. In the gold medal bout, she squared off against Ontario's Victoria Vergos.

While Vigneault said that the first match was quite easy, her second match was a challenge. The gold medal game was tougher than the other three, though she said she studied her opponent before hopping in the ring.

"That was a pretty good fight. I was studying her style and some of the weaknesses that she may have. I worked off from there. I had a really good coach that helped me out with that. So, it was a really good fight," she said. 

In the moments leading up to the end of the fight, Vigneault said she wasn't 100 per cent convinced she had won. But when the decision was announced, a torrent of emotions came.

"I started tearing up. I was fully crying in front of many people because I was so happy that I was the first woman to actually win gold in my category. There was definitely a lot of adrenaline and I just was thinking in my head: I did it. I finally did it ad I'm able to go celebrate with my family and just live in the moment."

Her victory was proudly announced across social media, which she said was slightly overwhelming, with hundreds of local fans cheering her on.

"I thought, 'Wow!' It made me feel so happy and it gave me such a huge boost," Vigneault said. "And my coach... George Lucas [from Humble Boxing] flew down to PEI just to support me, and the same thing with my dad. Also, having the team cheering me on during the flight gave me such a huge rush."

When asked what advice she may give other young women, the Bert Church High School student said that one should never stop pursuing one's dreams... ever.

"Your dreams can come true, as long as you are committed to it and don't let anybody stop you."

Vigneault's Alberta teammates, Attila Ahmed won gold in the 67 kg male boxing division, while Gatwich Kol Kot from Calgary also won silver in the 80 kg male boxing division.

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