On Thursday evening, The City of Airdrie honoured two local athletes, Chad Anheliger and Sienna MacDonald, for their achievements in their respective sports, by unveiling a plaque at Genesis Place with their names on said plaque.
Both athletes said they were surprised and very humbled by the announcement.
"My mom had approached me and told me that there was a possibility of potentially getting my name put on a plaque. I didn't think too much of it because we have a lot of good athletes to be proud of [in Airdrie]," MacDonald said. "I thought my chances were slim, but when she told me, I was over the moon; ecstatic."
MacDonald, a George McDougall High School alumnus and track and field athlete, is currently gearing up for The CanWest Games as well as the U SPORTS championship. She said that being nominated as part of the 2022 Elite Athlete award by the City of Airdrie means the world to her, especially since she has worked incredibly hard for all her achievements.
"To have a community that's so supportive - I'm at a loss for words. It's just amazing. Airdrie is such a great community, I've lived in a couple of places before moving to Airdrie, and the support you get like from Airdrie compared to other smaller towns that I've lived in; it's just incomparable."
As per her achievements, In 2022, she was the Canada West Champion in the Pentathlon, as well as being awarded the silver medal in the Long Jump 60-metre category. MacDonald had a stellar rookie season with the University of Calgary Dinos in 2021-2022, as she was able to qualify for three events on the national level.
Even with an injury, she was able to place sixth in the U SPORTS Championships pentathlon and was in seventh place in the 60-meter hurdles in Saint John. MacDonald scored the most individual points at the Canada West Championships, winning the pentathlon with an impressive score of 3,823 points. But those are only a few of her accolades.
When asked what her advice for young, aspiring athletes would be, she said that it comes down to never losing hope and always pushing forward, even when things don't seem to be going your way.
"Things are bound to go wrong and not everyone starts out as a great athlete. It takes a lot of confidence and it takes a lot of practice. When I started out, I had no clue what [a] pentathlon was, but I had the right coaching," she said. "I figured out that this is a process, and I have to trust the process."
Chad Anheliger, who, alongside MacDonald was honoured on Thursday, echoed MacDonald's sentiment about the humbling experience. Anheliger, a mixed martial arts fighter who has been in the sport for 15 years, is currently under contract with the UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championships.
He said that one of the most memorable points in his career was when he was in the T-mobile Arena in Las Vegas, getting into the ring with 20,000 spectators watching him.
"It was the biggest event I've ever been a part of and I found myself just taking it all in. The fight itself was great, but just the whole experience of being there; I just really enjoyed the whole experience from start to finish," he said.
Anheliger, whose nickname in the ring is 'The Monster', has amassed 12 wins, six losses, and zero draws in the Bantamweight Division. He also won Dana White Contender Series in 2021, which is where he was awarded his UFC contract. In 2019, he won the 2019 Bantamweight Championship Canadian Pro Title by knockout.
"I've had three fights with the UFC so far, and it's been about a year and a half. I have two more fights on my current contract, but if things go well, I'm hoping to re-sign for another four fights and keep going as long as I can," Anheliger added.
When asked what advice he could impart to future mixed martial arts athletes in Airdrie, he admitted that while he is slightly biased (all in good jest), he does believe that mixed martial arts are one of the best sports young people can get into.
"Martial arts is such a great thing. It's changed my life for the better in so many ways," he said. "There's nothing I could recommend better for kids than to get into martial arts training; find the right coach, find the right gym, great mentors, and martial arts really gives kids a goal and some discipline that can be used in everything in life."
MacDonald and Anheliger were both nominated for The Airdrie Elite Athlete program, which is meant to recognize current or former long-time Airdrie residents who have achieved athletic excellence in their field and who have made significant contributions to the Airdrie community.
The 2022 Elite Athlete award recipients were approved by Council on November 21. Nominations for the Airdrie Elite Athlete program are accepted year-round and are reviewed every Fall.
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