Meet Mal and their background:
Mal was born and raised in the Comox Valley. They grew up playing a variety of sports including soccer, track, basketball and cross-country skiing. At 17 years old, Mal was offered a full athletic soccer scholarship to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. They played soccer and attended university in south Texas for 4 years graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology in 2019.
They are extremely passionate about fitness, community, inclusion and equality and want to share these important qualities they display with others. Mal is currently working as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at a local gym in the Comox Valley called Wild + United Athletics. Mal loves to share their fitness knowledge with others and finds so much joy in what they do for work.
As a queer individual, Mal felt quite isolated growing up in the Comox Valley. Not having any queer role models as a young human made it hard for them to navigate their sexuality and gender identity. For a long time Mal tried to "fit in" with societal hetero norms. It wasn't until their early 20's that they finally started to embrace who they are and to live how they always felt on the inside.
Mal wants to be the role model for queer youth they never had growing up. They want to fight for these individuals in aspects of mental health resources, physical health maintenance along with advocating for sport accessibility as they know how costly and inaccessible these can be (especially for queer youth!). As an openly non-binary and trans individual, Mal wants to make an impact on this island for queer youth and make sports more inclusive regardless of how someone identifies as a human.
Meet Zara and her background:
Zara was born in California and moved to British Columbia Canada at a young age, saying she will always be a surfer girl at heart. Zara holds dual citizenship in both countries which makes her happy as that means she can vote in both countries elections. Zara moved to the Comox Valley in 2013 and has lived on the Island since.
Zara didn’t grow up in her developmental years playing sports, believing she wasn’t an athlete. It wasn’t until Zara was 12 that she started gymnastics and began moving her body in what she considered to be an “athletic” way. It was at this time Zara first started developing disordered eating habits like binging and restricting food to try to “fit in”. Food was something she could control when she felt her body was too “big” for the sport of gymnastics. In 2016 Zara started CrossFit and competed in Olympic Weight Lifting. Her eating disorder became worse and she asked for help, going to therapy for anorexia and orthorexia recovery. It wasn’t until Zara started powerlifting and working with a nutritionist that she felt herself begin the journey to recovery. Zara has strongly detached from diet culture and advocates for change in the fitness industry when it comes to photoshopping bodies and weight loss propaganda.
Zara won the 2019 IPL Jr 82.5kg female world championships in Dublin Ireland. She’s proudest of this gold medal for Canada because she proved to herself she could do it. Growing up feeling “unathletic” and dealing with, at times, crippling body dismorphia she was proud to have proven to herself that she was stronger than she believed and recovery is possible.
That’s why Zara is so passionate about sports and athletics; it has been a form of therapy and a confidence builder for her. She became a group fitness coach and personal trainer working for Wild + United athletics.
She believes that every human deserves the chance to experience the magic of athletics. Her philosophy is that anybody with a body is an athlete.
Zara is currently pursuing her degree in Political Science and believes sports are political and being an athlete means being a role model and a leader. She recognizes that her white privilege, able body, thin passing, and heterosexual identity helped her compete in sports without extra barriers and stereotypes keeping opportunities away. She wants to use her privilege to advocate for change and open doors for others.
Jacqueline is a co-director for VIQAA. She is passionate about human rights and inclusion, and is a strong ally for the queer community. She believes that all humans deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams and live authentically. She lives and loves in the Comox Valley, and feels blessed to soak up the beautiful energy of the ocean on a daily basis.
Jacqueline developed a love for movement in her teens. Over the years she has taught group fitness classes, guided sea kayaking and white water rafting adventures, and enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, weight lifting, rock climbing, dancing hula, yoga and all things functional movement!
She is excited that VIQAA is supporting young queer athletes in pursuing their own sport related passions and adventures.
Bella has grown up in the Comox Valley becoming involved with the community through volunteering.
She has always been passionate about advocating for things she believes in, and is dedicated to helping VIQAA as much as she can.
Bella prefers the arts - such as painting and music - over sports, but was raised among athletes and knows the importance of having something you love to do.
Bella has been a valuable member of VIQAA from the beginning with her knowledge of website and graphic design. (A note from Mal & Zara: This website would not have been possible without Bella's expertise. Thank you Bella!)