A person runs in a gymnasium as people in the background watch. A large yellow banner reads RBC Training Ground.

Mary Adarkwa says there are some similarities between wrestling and rugby.

Both are physical sports with regular contact between competitors where strength and explosiveness are important attributes for athletic success.  

Adarkwa, who holds a diploma in Fitness and Health Promotion from Humber College and is enrolled in the University of Guelph-Humber’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Kinesiology program, has first-hand experience playing both sports at the collegiate level.

Adarkwa is a former U Sports wrestler who switched to Rugby 7s with the Humber Hawks last season. She’s one of nearly 100 athletes who will compete at the RBC Training Ground national final that’s being held December 2 in Toronto. From that event, 30 athletes will earn funding, a place on Team Canada with one of 12 partner National Sport Organizations and an accelerated path to the Olympics.  

This year, 2,200 athletes between the ages of 14 and 25 from a range of sports participated in free local qualifier events across the country where they performed core speed, strength, power and endurance tests in front of Olympic talent scouts. Adarkwa was told about a qualifier by a friend and they both attended to see how they would do.

Adarkwa began wrestling successfully in high school and continued with the sport when she attended university. When Adarkwa got to Humber, she started working out at the College’s High Performance Centre and it was there that some of the athletes suggested she try out for the Rugby 7s team. She knew very little of the sport but turned out to be a bit of a natural.

“The tackling part came easy to me,” said Adarkwa with a laugh. “It was nerve-wracking the first time I went out there. I was wondering if I was going to make a pass or catch the ball. Once I got the hang of it, I realized how much I liked the sport.”

She joined the Hawks team last season and played club rugby with the Brampton Beavers in the summer. Adarkwa is dealing with a high ankle sprain that has kept her on the sidelines this season but is eager and excited to show what she can do on December 2.

“I’m ready to give it my all,” said Adarkwa. “My ultimate goal is to make the team and represent Canada at the national level. I think it also shows it’s never too late to make a change or chase your dreams. I’m just so grateful for this opportunity.”

During RBC Training Ground National Final testing, athletes’ speed, power, strength, and endurance will be tested against sport-specific, high-performance benchmarks under the supervision of program sport partners.  

“Since moving across to Rugby 7s, Mary has demonstrated excellent aerial and contact skills,” said Jennifer Joyce, strength and conditioning coach with Rugby Canada. “Her core athletic testing results were also strong so we’re excited to see her at the final.”

Now in its eighth year, RBC Training Ground is a nationwide talent identification and athlete-funding program dedicated to finding and supporting the next generation of Canadian Olympians. Since its inception in 2016, the program has tested 13,000 athletes with close to 2,000 being identified as having Olympic potential.  

Thirteen RBC Training Ground athletes have competed at two Olympic Games and, collectively, they’ve won seven medals. Program alumni Kelsey Mitchell and Marion Thénault are among the medal winners, both of whom had never tried their Olympic sport before showing up at an RBC Training Ground event.

The 30 athletes selected for funding will be announced early in 2024. The funding is used for coaching, transportation, travel, equipment, and nutrition, among other areas.

A new season of RBC Training Ground will be launching in early 2024. Visit RBCTrainingGround.ca for details.