By Ryan McCracken on February 8, 2019.
When Janick Lacroix was taken aside by officials at the Canada Winter Games staging camp in Red Deer last month, he feared the worst.
The local boxer spent the past two years preparing for the opportunity to represent his province in the ring on the national stage, and that shot was finally within sight. But that anxiety quickly faded when he discovered what they wanted.
“I thought I was in trouble, but it turns out they chose me (as a flag bearer),” said Lacroix, who will be fighting at 75 kilograms. “It means a lot to be chosen out of 250 athletes to be one of three athletes chosen for that, it’s a big deal.”
Artistic gymnast Elijah Thompson will carry the Alberta flag into the opening ceremony on Feb. 15 at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, while Lacroix and speedskater Hee Won Son will be at his sides holding the Team Alberta banner.
“I had known for a couple of months but I never told him,” said Medicine Hat Boxing Club coach Kerry Fahlman, who will coach Alberta’s boxers at the Games. “It’s just great.”
The honour caps off a long road to the Games for Lacroix. The 16-year-old had his love for the sweet science tested when his former coach, Mike Kucik, was killed in 2016. But it was at Kucik’s funeral when Lacroix’s road to the Games — and beyond — truly began.
“When my old coach passed in 2016, Mike, Kerry came to the funeral and he pretty much just told me if I wanted to keep my career going he’d be happy to take me in,” said Lacroix. “He’s helped me every step of the way, him and the coaches here. Now we’re here and it’s happening.”
Lacroix was living in Ponteix, Sask. at the time and making the three-hour trip to Medicine Hat with his mother in to compete under Fahlman. While he’s since made the move the Medicine Hat, he’s been forced to shoulder far more responsibility than the average 16-year-old. After living with billets last year, Lacroix has moved into his own place while attending school and training around the clock.
“He’s up early and he’s running and going to Temple (Fitness) and hitting the bag in the morning before school. Then he comes home, makes his lunch, goes to school and does his sports performance plus classes,” said Fahlman. “He hits the bag after school at the school, then he’ll run again, then he’ll come down here (to the boxing club) and work out here. Nobody has worked harder for it. He deserves it. That’s why he is what he is, because of the way he trains.”
Lacroix’s ultimate goal is to fight his way to the top of the podium at the Olympic Games, and he considers next week’s national event to be a brick in the road to the ultimate prize.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympics,” he said. “When I started boxing in Medicine Hat, Kerry called me in 2017 and said, ‘You’ve qualified for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.’ I only had like seven or eight fights back then, and I just remember thinking ‘Wow, the Canada Winter Games, that’s going to be a big deal.’ And now it’s a week away and I’ve put in all this work and I’m ready.”
While Lacroix already has a national junior boxing championship under his belt, he says it pales in comparison to the importance of clinching gold at the Canada Winter Games.
“I know that this competition is bigger than nationals,” he said. “It’s pretty much every winter sport.”
Lacroix will be joined by Medicine Hat Boxing Club teammate Tristan Deveau at the Games. Fahlman says the 69-kilogram fighter has truly earned his place on Alberta’s team and should be in the conversation for the podium, along with Lacroix.
“He fought two real tough guys at our last show here, three weeks ago, and got two big wins. He doesn’t have a lot of fights yet but he’s very strong,” said Fahlman. “I expect Janick and him to medal.”
Lacroix added he’s thrilled to be making the trip north with both his coach and a teammate, and with any luck they’ll both have some hardware hanging around their necks on the trip home.
“We’re both expecting really tough competition up there. It’s going to be his first time at a national-level tournament,” said Lacroix. “Tristan is a funny guy and he trains hard. It means a lot not being the only one from Medicine Hat going for boxing.
“It’s going to be tough up there, but it’s going to be lots of fun.”
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