Regina Riot mainstay Ashley Viklund brings victorious presence to Vancouver

Part of an amazing legacy of exceptional female football in the province of Saskatchewan, Ashley Viklund’s status as one of the game’s greats reached its apex with the 2017 IFAF Women’s World Football Championships in Vancouver. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest competitors in the history of the remarkable Regina Riot, the last 12 months have proven to be the most compelling for Viklund.

From the outset, Viklund joined a hybrid of players from both the Riot and the Valkyries as members of Team Saskatchewan at the 2016 Canadian national women’s championships. Unified with the goal of bringing back its first-ever national championship, this captivating collaboration resulted in Viklund joining Funk as the only offensive linemen from Saskatchewan to gain Tournament All-Star recognition.

Viklund (#65) in action with Team Canada while Riot teammate Aimee Kowalski looks to complete a pass against Australia (Credit: Diz Ruptive Photography)

Following this historic victory, the calendar year of 2017 began on an exciting note as Viklund was the recipient of a monumental announcement. Joined by eight other members of the Riot, she was named to Team Canada’s entry at the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds, the first to be hosted on home soil.

“I actually made one of my team mates open our letters together, the ones saying we had made it. We did not realize at the time that just getting a letter meant we were in. It was pretty sweet to share it with her as she has now retired from football.

Every game I have ever played has been with her, so it was helpful to share even just that part with her. We were thrilled and went out for steak to celebrate (true lineman style).

Later, at the tournament, the first thing I heard when I stepped onto the field was my family yelling my name. Which really drove home how special it was for Team Canada to be able to wear the Maple Leaf at home.”

Viklund (#65) in the red Team Canada jerseys versus Australia (Credit: Debra Carlson, Diz Ruptive Photography)

Such a landmark moment helped set the tone for an exciting year to come. With the eternal rivalry between the Valkyries and the Riot reaching a collision course at the 2017 WWCFL Prairie Conference championship game, it was also part of the feeling of history that was quickly defining such an essential year in the game’s history in Canada.

With the Prairie Conference championship game signifying the final game at Mosaic Stadium, it was the kind of moment that was testament to the growing importance of the female game. Not only did the Riot emerge victorious in this historic match, they would follow it up by defeating the Calgary Rage, making their WWCFL championship game debut, establishing themselves as the premier team in Canadian female football.

Following it up by wearing Canada’s colours alongside eight of her Riot teammates (five on the offense while four patrolled the defense) such as Alex and Aimee Kowalski, Carmen Agar, Claire Dore, Katie Hungle, Emilie Belanger, Artemis Koropoulou and Adrienne Zuck added a tremendous cachet. Along with seven members of the Valkyries on the roster, it solidified Saskatchewan’s stature as the premier province for female football in Canada,

“Getting to share the experience with players who are part of the Riot was really amazing. On the Riot the players really are a family, especially for those of us who don’t live near our families because of football.

It was amazing to have those people who you know well enough you can lean on them after a hard practice or when things go wrong. Even having other Saskatchewan players was wonderful, as we had gotten to know each other last year on the provincial team.

Further to that, I am leaving Regina this month and moving to a city without football. So I think it adds something that my last experience with some of my favourite Riot people will have been on the national team.”

Competing against Team Great Britain in Canada’s second game of the IFAF Worlds (Credit: Debra Carlson, Diz Ruptive Photography)

With the prestige of wearing Canada’s jersey on home soil providing Viklund with a feeling of achievement that fulfilled so many of her aspirations,

Finding many unique parallels between her run to the 2017 WWCFL championship with the Riot, plus the chance to play for Canada on home soil, the philosophy that ‘hard work wins’, accompanied by the spirit of encouragement comprised key values.

Such values were essential in the penultimate chapter of the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds. Competing in the gold medal game took on even greater merit for Viklund, as it represented an accomplishment in which the goal of competing on the game’s greatest stage was one realized in grand fashion.

“Getting to be a part of the National Team playing in the Gold medal dream was the culmination of a life goal I never thought would be met. It was indescribable to be on the field when Canada scored their first points against the USA ever.

One commonality I noticed between the Riot in the Championship run and Team Canada was belief. The belief that we could win and we could do it together.”

Vancouver proved to be the fitting denouement to the greatest 12 months in Viklund’s storied career. While the experience certainly made her gridiron journey so much fuller and richer than it was before, Viklund’s legacy as a model teammate is one that is most appreciate of admiration.

In the grand narrative, the chance to grace the gridiron and experience the feeling of home field advantage in an unprecedented manner, signified the hope, joys and dreams of female football in Canada. Even with its complexities, the football ethos reveals a fundamental truth that the optimism for an even greater future for its fantastic female competitors is possible due to the efforts of gracious and dedicated women such as Viklund at the 2017 IFAF Women’s Worlds.

Viklund (#65) part of a group photo, surrounded by jubilant teammates in Vancouver (Credit: Russ Desaulniers)

“I think my favorite moment of the tournament is actually the time the team spent together in the dorms, watching film on our own or having bilingual sing-a-longs; really just building this team with women from all over the country. Or scoring the first ever points against the USA in a championship game ever. That was pretty awesome too.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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