Athlete Spotlight – Anikka Cassidy

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta

How were you introduced to the sport? I started wheelchair track at the end of my senior year in high school. I got sick at 15, and after being an elite athlete for eight years, I thought my life was over. After hearing that I started wheelchair track. My family friend and former Paralympian Dan Brinton signed me up for a recreational class in Calgary. I got strapped into a chair in 2019, and I never left.

Are you involved in any other sports? Wheelchair Basketball is still my primary sport. I still cross-train with wheelchair track and para-boxing, but those are mainly to keep me strong and make me a better basketball player.

Any pregame superstitions/rituals? on the court? I have had superstitions regarding sports since I was nine years old, I blame being an anxious mess, but it works. I shake my hands seven times each, then four times, twice, and once. I slap my legs, arms, and neck as hard as possible to get into the suitable head space. I kiss my fingers and touch the parts of my body that affect my disability the most to respect how far I have come. On the court, I like to look at the floor and breathe. This brings my focus to me and what I want to achieve.

Pregame meal? I eat the same breakfast every day; three rice cakes with nut butter and salt plus some fruit. When I travel, I don’t always get those things, so it’s usually some fruit, toast with butter, and fruit. I keep things light in the morning and eat lots of snacks.

Favourite song to warm up to? As a team, it has to be ABBA. It’s the best way to get pumped up. Personally, my go-to song to warm up to at the moment is players by Coi Leray.

What is your favourite memory playing wheelchair basketball? Besides all the moments I have had with the Women’s National Team, my favourite memory is Junior Nationals in PEI last June. I got to know the team well, got to experience playing against friends while keeping my grit, and created memories with all of Team Alberta. I love the camaraderie that comes with Wheelchair Basketball.

What motivates you the most to work hard? My mom got sick in law school; she almost died multiple times while pregnant with me. She was willing to do anything for me and still became successful in her career. My motivation comes from trying to make her proud; I want to show my gratitude for everything she has done for me. People who know my mom know what a caring person she is; the fact that she can be a cutthroat lawyer while being kind to others is what motivates me every day.

How are you feeling about the Canada Winter Games? I am nervous and yet so excited. I have been working ridiculously hard, and I can’t wait to show off my mentality. I am excited to play with Team Alberta as a whole. This team has so much potential, which I think will show throughout the games.

How have you been preparing for the Canada Winter Games? I train six days a week, four days on the court and three lifts. I am in my chair and working regardless of how sick I am. My mentality has been a huge focus for me. I have been reading a ton about athlete mental health, gratitude journaling and making vision boards. My preparation has been for my mental strength over my physical strength.

What is your goal for the Canada Winter Games? I aim to put 110% effort into all my games and practices. Every time I’m on the court is a gold medal game. I can’t control the game or other players, but I can maintain my effort, attitude, and willingness to improve. The Canada Games is a long time so staying positive and working hard the whole time is my main goal.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get involved in the sport? Just try it! It might be scary the first time you get on the court, but as time goes on, you find your rhythm and happy place. I have played lots of sports, and I have to say the wheelchair basketball community is so compassionate that it makes it easy. As my mom says, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” How do you get involved in the sport? One roll at a time.

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