When Kimana Mar, a student in the office administration program, stepped onto the mat at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles, she felt the support of her country and a rowdy audience cheering her on.
“I felt motivated, I felt like I can really achieve things,” said Mar.
But getting to a World Games hosted by the Special Olympics is no small task. It requires dedication and determination to master any sport.
Mar is looking forward to competing in her third World Games, which will be held this year in Berlin. However, the qualification process was a bit different this time around.
In the years before COVID-19, the qualification process involved competitions at the local, provincial, and national levels to qualify for the national team.
“Provincials were cancelled for 2020 and nationals were cancelled in 2022 so there was no actual way for us to qualify in the usual way, so we just got selected randomly by lottery,” said Mar
Mar began her athletic journey with ballet at the age of five, but three years later she made the switch to gymnastics and the rest is history.
“I love performing, I love dancing and being with the music, so it was a perfect fit with me,” said Mar about the switch to gymnastics that put her on the path to competing on the world stage.
Mar has been highly successful on the world stage in her preferred rhythmic gymnastics discipline, the ribbon. She won six total medals including five gold in her first World Games in Los Angeles and followed that up with seven medals in Abu Dhabi four years later.
There are five different options for apparatus in the rhythmic gymnastics discipline, but Mar favours the ribbon.
“Ribbon is my favourite because even though it can be difficult and challenging because it’s the one that requires a lot of wrist movement, I love how it flows and the different patterns,” said Mar.
Being a high-level athlete and completing post-secondary education at the same time would be daunting for anyone, but Mar always knew she wanted to go to college and her ties to Algonquin began when she was quite young.
Mar said she “had this dream of going to college” and has always wanted to attend Algonquin.
“I came to Algonquin College years ago, at the Early Learning Centre. It was an amazing experience. I went to a couple of other schools for my education, and then I just had this dream of going to college and I’ve always wanted to come back to Algonquin College,” said Mar. “We actually visited the Early Learning Centre not long ago, like in 2019. They immediately recognized us and when I told them I was thinking of coming here as a student they were very excited for me.”
Mar credits her academic success to her counsellors at the Centre for Accessible Learning, as well as her professors. “My professors have been so encouraging, so inspiring, and motivating, they really support me,” said Mar.
Mar’s mother, Sandra Wong, agreed. “The professors have been really supportive and understanding,” Wong said.
Mar will be heading to Berlin with her teammates and family in June. The multiple-time champion is modest with her goals for the championship.
“My goal is to just do my best and represent Canada and just be excited to be going to these games and showing the world that this is what I can do no matter what it is,” said Mar.