FITGIRLS AWARD – 2019 Candidates

Congratulations to Antonietta Botticelli who is our 2019 Fit Communications Inspiration Award winner! She has inspired people of all ages and fitness levels across our country. We are so proud of her, and our five finalists in all that they had achieved. 

The Fit Communications Inspiration Award is an annual Award given to one Canadian female who is inspiring those around her in their sport and fitness life. Keep in touch with us by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or sign up for our newsletter here



Antonietta Botticelli

My name is Antonietta Botticelli and I am 42 years old. I currently reside in Stouffville, Ontario and I am a mother to two English Bulldogs named Charlie and Marley. They are my life. I have two younger sisters and have grown up in a traditional Italian family, which I am very proud of.

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This is my story…

Back in September of 2016 – I joined WW (Weight Watchers) as a friend of mine wanted a free month added to her membership and I had to join in order for her to get a free month. It was really hard for me to walk through those doors but I took a deep breath and jumped in. When I look back to that first day, even though it was the hardest day, it was in reality the best day of my life.

In May of 2018 I went on a Weight Watchers cruise and participated in a series group fitness class offered, including the Walk 15 with Sue. Walk 15 is a low impact, group fitness class which incorporates 4 walking-based movements, this is done via fun, upbeat music, indoors. It is for everyone, male or female, every age and every fitness level. 15 signifies the beats per minute in 15 mins we walk 1 mile. The class is 45 mins long, so we end up walking 3 miles – I fell in love with it instantaneously – I had approached Sue and asked her what I needed to do to instruct a class back in Canada. As soon as I got home, I did my research, completed the course and became a certified Walk 15 Instructor.

In July of 2018 I launched my Walk 15 with Antonietta class and had 47 people show up — I only offered one class a week as I did not know what to expect or how to really take a group fitness class on — I just envisioned what I would want in a group fitness class and how I felt when I first started my journey to bettering my health — now I am proud to say I offer 6 classes a week and have over 440 members!!! So crazy awesome — right?

In November of 2018 I was recruited to work for WW as a coach and guide and in February of 2019, I was given my own workshop to lead and as of today I have 30 members and the attendance grows every week.

Should I be awarded this honorable award it will be used to help 10 women and/or men to continue their journey to become stronger, healthier and happier. The money will go towards a 10 class punch card which are $50 each to 10 members. There were many women and men throughout the course of my journey that have provided me the courage and strength to achieve my health goals. I sincerely feel that this is my opportunity to help other women/men to achieve their goals and this is one way I would be able to pay it forward.

My current goal is to continue to empower, encourage and motivate all the members that come to my group fitness class – to continue to ensure a safe space for them – a space without judgement. A place where we all get together to support and provide the courage to make our lives healthier and stronger, as we have learned that self-care is not selfish.

My future goal is to share the love of Walk 15 with Antonietta to as many people as possible. It is more than a group fitness class it is a place where lifelong friendships are made; goals are crushed and self-motivation is fostered. It is a place where for 45 mins it’s all about us. It is a place where we get to move, have fun and sing our hearts out to awesome music.

I feel I deserve this award because as of today I have lost 141 lbs – I am no longer diabetic – my journey does not end here – I have not reached my own personal weight goal – I have 20 more to go — I have been given a platform to educate women and men to be more kind to themselves and provide them the tools to turn their health journey around. My story is relatable to so many people and if I am able to give 10 women/men the chance to stay on this positive movement of self-care – I will most definitely try my hardest to provide that to them.

Holly Hjartarson

My Name is Holly Hjartarson and I hope you consider me to win the Inspiration Award. I have been an active member in the Artistic Swimming community for 19 years, and cannot wait for the next 19.

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I have worn many hats in the sport and often more than one at once. Most notably these include a national and international level athlete for close to 20 years (including currently in my second season of swimming pregnant!), a coach for 12 years to athletes across Manitoba and active volunteer.

Artistic swimming is more than just a sport or hobby for me. I have turned my passion for the sport into a full-time career. It hasn’t been easy but is always rewarding.

Although I have transitioned from athlete to coach, I continue to strive for be involved in “sport for life” and plan to continue to swim and compete well into old age. My short and long term goals include:

  1. Continue to be active throughout my current pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. I am competing in a Masters Provincial Championships in April!
  2. Working on implementing strategies at home that allow for more work-life balance. With a toddler at home and one on the way, I am quickly learning how to integrate my family into my ‘synchro’ life and how to turn it off when I just need family time.
  3. Compete at every world FINA World Masters event until I am no longer physically able.
  4. Run a marathon!
  5. Complete my Advanced Coaching Diploma. I will be the first Artistic Swimming Coach in Manitoba to complete this level of training and part of just a small handful of graduates within the province.
  6. Lead my artistic swimming club into becoming a model club in the country. Ensuring we have quality programing all the way from grassroots to high performance, parent engagement and involvement, and happy well-rounded athletes that succeed throughout all areas of life
  7. Lead Manitoba to the podium provincially in artistic swimming.

The top areas that this award would help towards include:

  1. Continuing to develop programs rurally in Steinbach Manitoba
  2. Advanced Coaching Diploma
  3. Synch Effect Camp in July (with a 4 week old baby!)
  4. Personal Coaching Mentorship
  5. Personal Training – The Road to the next FINA World Masters

I believe that I deserve this award because I truly model what ‘Sport for Life’ means, and spend every bit of energy I have working to inspire and develop female athletes of ALL ages. I work hard to be a positive role model and lead by example both as an athlete and coach. My philosophy is instead of complaining about the problem, be part of the solution and I teach my athlete and young coaches to do the same.

The financial portion of the award would greatly assist in many areas in my professional growth which would ultimately benefit athletes within Manitoba as well as take away some of the financial burden that the opportunities bring. But, more importantly, the award would give me a larger platform to recruit more girls and woman to the sport that I truly love, or just inspire girls to set goals for life in sport (not just till they are 18) and show woman that pregnancy and motherhood doesn’t have to be the end of their personal fitness and athletic growth.

Jessica Wylychenko

This award will be used to support my endeavors in the 2019 Challenge for life in Support of Cancer Care Manitoba. I have registered to walk 20km with a team on June 8th 2019, and the minimum fundraising goal for each participant is $500.

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With each participant fundraising efforts, my employer will contribute an additional $200 to Cancer Care Foundation, so that is extra motivation for me to hit my goal, and this award would be it! This grant would be used as a donation to Cancer Care Manitoba to support me in the Challenge for life 2019 walk on June 8th.

My present goal for health and wellness is to maintain my fitness level and wellbeing, while pushing my personal strength and endurance limits in the sport of running, aiming for another first place half marathon finish before the end of 2019. Through this process it is also my goal to listen to my body, not to ignore the pain, the hunger, the soreness, but to actually tune-in to what my body needs and be grateful for how strong it is!

My future goal is to inspire, educate, and entertain. As a registered dietitian I often see how under- fueled females can be, and that they are simply not eating enough, and this is very true in the female running population. I seek to inspire and educate women, and runners on proper nutrition, done in a fun and entertaining way that makes it approachable and “real life”.

I currently have gym memberships across the city at Goodlife, and Anytime fitness, in addition to group classes in the community such as WPG Cycle, Moksha Yoga and Orange Theory. My true passion is running and am involved with the Winnipeg running community by connecting with Winnipeg Run Club, BALG Winnipeg, the Running Room and am currently an ambassador for the WFPS half marathon. I have been invited as a guest speaker to for all of the previous mentioned organizations to discuss the “Top 5 Nutrition Mistakes Runners make and how to avoid them”. My personal run accomplishments include:

  • 1st place female half marathon at the 2018 WFPS half marathon
  • 6th place female at the 2018 MB half marathon, 2nd in my age category
  • 1st place female 10k at the 2018 Treherne Marathon

Staying healthy and fit is so important for each of our individual wellbeing, but being able to share that with the community at large is where the magic happens! If what I enjoy to do, can inspire other people to make positive change in their life, that becomes my “why” _that is what motivates me. Walking the Challenge for Life is a way to show my support through movement and community involvement and hopefully inspire along the way!

I believe I am worthy of this award because my personal passion for fitness and health has evolved into a passion for helping others make positive change in their life. Building supportive health communities that are positive, fun, and engaging way to bring people together and to self-nurture at the same time. My personal motto is to inspire, educate, and entertain and I use fitness and food as tools to help others make positive change in their own life.

Joy Friesen

Hello! My name is Joy Friesen. I am 51 years old and swim in the masters squad with the Prince Albert Sharks Swim Club in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I swam competitively as a child and teenager, but once I became an adult my career and children took priority and I no longer swam.

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Approximately 5 years ago I decided to make some positive changes in my life. I had two young daughters that were watching and learning from me. I wanted to show them what it meant to be healthy & fit and to love your body and shape regardless of the size. I began exploring different activities – running, biking, hot yoga, and eventually I found my way back to the swimming pool. I feel proud of the changes I have made and sustained, but mostly I love that my daughters have grown up in a home where we practice self-love and self-compassion as well as balance, exploring all life has to offer, and gratitude.

If I were to succeed in receiving the Inspiration Award I would use it to pay for my increased training fees leading up to Nationals as well as the costs to travel to the Canadian National Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal in May.

The goals I have for this current swim season include the following: Make a provincial Record (achieved in March), Compete in 7 events at Nationals in Montreal the end of May, do all best times there, swim the S5000 (a long distance race in Saskatoon) (completed last weekend!) and also swim 3 open water swims this summer (Swift Current -3 km, Kelowna – 2.2 km, and Waskesui – 4 km).

My future goals include continuing to swim and compete in National swim meets and to swim an open water marathon swim of 10 km!!!

Some of my past accomplishments from just the last few years include: setting a provincial record in 25 backstroke, winning a bronze medal at Nationals in Calgary last May in the 1500 freestyle, Winning a gold medal in the 50 plus age group in a 3 km open water swim in Swift Current and swimming the Golden Gate Bridge race in the San Francisco Bay last summer.

To be honest, one of the accomplishments that I am most proud of is the healthy and fun life I have created for myself. Hardly a day goes by where someone at work or on social media doesn’t notice the joy and vibrancy I exude. I feel proud when others say I inspire them. Wow…it is very humbling. If I were to receive this award it would assist me to carry on and continue to pursue my goals. It would ease some of the financial demands of competing and helps me to continue to shine bright.

I believe I deserve this award because I have inspired many to get off the couch and get moving – to try a class or take a learn-to-run clinic. I encourage and support women and men who are pursuing any kind of fitness or wellness goal. It’s not always about being the best…to me it’s about trying t, doing it, finishing it…whatever it is. I am teaching my daughters to set goals, to take care of their bodies, to cherish their bodies, and most importantly to get out there and try something that they don’t think they can do…they just might surprise themselves!

Lee Angela Igne

My name is Lee Angela Igne, 16 years old and a Grade 11, consistent honor student of the Maples Collegiate. I am also one of the Martial Arts Instructors of the Winnipeg Sikaran Arnis Academy where I have been a member and started training since I was 3 years old under the upervision and guidance of my father, Redentor Igne our Chief Instructor and my mother, Kelly Legaspi, our Administrator and Instructor.

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I am the second of their four children and all of us are active partners of our parents in keeping our martial arts school’s endeavors. With the years that I have spent in training, I have developed self-discipline, confidence, skills, love and passion of the sport. I also became an active volunteer for many activities and events in the community through our martial arts school.

Our school is not only a school; we regard it as a Big Family. I also learned the value of being humble amidst the achievements that I have earned such as Grand Champion titles from various Provincial, National and World Martial Arts tournaments, recognition in Sport events,TV appearances, radio interviews, news and the likes. The most recent one was indeed one of my most favorite achievements; when I, together with my younger sister qualified to be a member of Team Canada and competed at the WKC World Karate Championships in November 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. I was overwhelmed of the support of our families and friends who joined our journey. I did not want to let them down so we invested a lot of hours in training and preparing for this to bring home pride for our supporters and for our country, Canada. It was a success! I came home with the World’s Silver Medal for Creative Weapon Forms and the 5th Best Fighter in the World.

Right now, I am focused on giving back to the community. I would like to continue to be a good example for the youth through encouraging them to engage in sports like martial arts and achieving a balance between studies, sports, having “good, healthy and active” fun.

With the news that we hear, read and see on social media like robberies, kidnapping, the war on meth, gangs and break-ins in general and one of the most devastating one was the most recent tragedy that claimed the life of a teenager, many have doubts if our City is still safe. I would like to believe that Winnipeg is still safe. I would like to make a difference. I would like to give back by teaching self-defense classes for the youth in general, young like me in particular. I would like to give back by establishing an alternative venue that would help the youth to stay away from the dangers of the streets and also help them develop their awareness and to be alert and mindful of the environment. This is what my parents have taught me and I would like to share the same knowledge and skills to others especially the girls, young ladies and women this summer which is just around the corner.

This grant will help me offset the costs such as training equipment, advertisement flyers, some of the cost for the utilities for holding these classes. I believe I deserve this award because I am a hard-working young adult in the sport community who continues to strive to achieve and make a difference. I am short for my age, I was once bothered by it but I learned that big things come in small packages. I would like to inspire other girls and women to transcend their limitations and pursue their dreams because a dream never expires!


Voting for the 2019 Inspiration Award is now closed. We will be announcing the Grant Recipient the first week of May. Stay tuned!