Vulcan gets into Olympic spirit, supporting local rubgy star Keyara Wardley
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Vulcan, Alberta may be known as the “Official Star Trek Capital of Canada” but with the Tokyo Olympics about to begin many residents are turning their focus to an out of this world athlete, Keyara Wardley.
“We’re bursting with pride,” said Keyara’s mother Lisa Wylie. “We’re just anxious, and excited and it’s pretty awesome.”
Wylie’s daughter is a member of Canada’s female rugby team based in Victoria, and was among a dozen players selected to represent Canada in the rugby sevens in Tokyo.
The community has been openly displaying its pride, with businesses along Main Street displaying signs proudly proclaiming Wardley as a home town Olympian.
“I’m super-excited to watch that, and to watch the Olympics now when you got a personal connection with it,” said family friend Cody Debolt.
Chiropractor Dr. George Liscombe said he has known Keyara since she was a little girl, and treated her during her sporting activities.
"I just said to Lisa, she's only got one speed, and that's wide open," added Liscombe. "We're pretty proud of her right now."
Wardley was an all-star with the County Central High School Hawks in Vulcan and burst onto the international rugby scene at the age of 16. She has been centralized with the national sevens program since 2017.
Corey Ramer is owner of the Life Med Pharmacy, where Keyara had a part time job, starting when she was only 13.
“We’ve seen her growing up and developing as an athlete and a student,” said Ramer. “She’s an extremely hard working individual and I think that shows now, where she made it with the Olympic team.”
Ramer is looking forward to watching some of the games. “You’re more invested when there’s somebody you know whose there competing.”
While Olympic athletes are chasing gold, many are forced to make a financial sacrifice in order to follow that dream.
Vulcan residents are supporting their local hero through several fund raisers, including the sale of t-shirts, featuring an action shot of Wardley and the message “GO KEYARA GO!”
Family friend Jeannine Tucker of Black Diamond came up with another fundraising idea, selling 118 cases of steaks in just six days, to help Keyara with some of her expenses.
“These girls don’t make a lot of money and they’re expected to do these amazing things,” said Tucker, who knew Wardley through local rugby connections.
“She has been away from home training since she was 17,” added Tucker. “Our girls need as much support as they can get for rugby.”
While training in Victoria Wardley has been working in a bowling alley part-time, while continuing her schooling online, with the goal of getting into forensic science.
Main Street Vulcan is plastered with signs offering support. A large banner has been placed in Bell Park, next to a bust of Spock, made for Leonard Nimoy when he visited Vulcan in 2010.
Many people are stopping by to write messages on the banner, offering well wishes and good luck as Wardley prepares to compete on the world stage.
“We were just overwhelmed when we saw all the support from businesses and people on the street,” said Ken Wardley, Keyara’s grandfather.
“Amazing stuff,” added Wardley’s grandmother Verena. “I thought she was really too pretty and too small to play rugby, but look at her now.”
The proud grandparents live in High River, but made a drive to Vulcan Tuesday to pick up some more tee-shirts that have been purchased by a circle of friends they met while wintering in Arizona prior to the pandemic.
Verena said a number of their friends found out they had a granddaughter who made the Olympic team, “And they just called out of the blue and said we want to support, how can we do that?”
The couple said they have mailed t-shirts to friends in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Colorado and Winnipeg, “It just goes on and on,” added Verena.
Wylie said a group family and friends had purchased tickets to the Olympics and arranged for accommodations in Tokyo before a decision was made to ban spectators due to the COVID emergency in Japan.
While disappointed, Wylie said they are looking forward to watching the rugby sevens games on television, with the rest of the community.
The town of Vulcan is planning to set up a large screen downtown where residents will be able to watch the games. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, there are plans to move the screening indoors at the Vulcan Lodge Hall.