Article by: Ryan Keliher
It’s only fitting that boxing occurred during Week Two of this year’s Canada Winter Games, coinciding with Women’s History Month, which runs the month of March.
Female boxing made its historic debut this week at Credit Union Place in Summerside, PEI.
On Saturday evening, Talia Birch of Team Quebec and Emily Vigneault of Team Alberta each cemented their names in Canadian boxing history by winning the first-ever Canada Games gold medals in their respective divisions.
For the 52 Kg champ Birch, competing at the Canada Winter Games is an impressive feat in itself. She only picked up the sport during the pandemic. Winning gold elevates the accomplishment to a level that is hard for Birch to describe.
“It feels so surreal. Less than two years ago, I didn’t know how to throw a punch, and now I won the first-ever boxing gold medal for 52 kilograms girls - it’s crazy. I’ve been in camp for four months training as hard as I can to get here and win. It feels crazy to actually do it,” said Birch. The 17-year-old Montreal-based fighter is undefeated in her two-year boxing career and has Olympic aspirations.
Emily Vigneault captured gold in the 60-kg female division. Vigneault, of Airdrie, Alberta, is less than three years into boxing but also has Muay Thai fighting experience. Dedication and hard work were catalysts for her reaching the top of the podium.
“I’ve been going to the gym six days a week. Sometimes 2-3 hours every day and running in the morning. It was such a big preparation,” said the ecstatic 16-year-old fighter.
“It’s the best thing ever - I was getting emotional. I fought with everything I had. I had to make sure my hard work paid off. I can’t even explain it. It’s so amazing, and I have so much fun doing this,” Vigneault added.
While the boxing ring can sometimes be a lonely place for fighters, Birch and Vigneault each acknowledged the tremendous support and encouragement they’ve received from their coaches, family, friends, and boxing clubs en route to their historic victories.
Birch trains at G1 boxing club under the tutelage of coach Jamaal Garner. Vigneault puts in her work at Humble Boxing Academy with coach Lucas George.
Rounding out the podium in the 52-kg division were fighters Ruqaya Nawas representing Team Ontario (silver) and Tessa Scott of Team New Brunswick (bronze). In the 60-kg class, Team Ontario’s Victoria Vergus won silver, and Team Quebec’s Alessia Mansueto took home the bronze.