Williams Lake celebrated Kayla Moleschi’s Olympic accomplishments and gave her a warm welcome home Saturday.
After a small parade accompanied the Canadian Women’s Rugby Sevens Team bronze medalist from city hall to Marie Sharpe Elementary School, people congregated on the school field for a celebration.
Kayla received accolades from MLA Donna Barnett, Mayor Walt Cobb, Lake City Secondary School principal Gregg Gaylord, one of her former rugby coaches Mauro Calabrese and Darcy Patterson from BC Rugby.
Barnett was fighting back the tears as she congratulated Kayla.
“You have made everybody so proud,” Barnett told her. “To all the young people here, look at what this lady has done with the support of her parents and her community.”
On behalf of Premier Christy Clark and the government, Barnett presented Kayla with a plaque.
Mayor Walt Cobb said her Olympic medal was an indication of what a person can do with a lot of hard work, perseverance, commitment and sacrifices.
“Her grandpa told me this morning from nine years old, when they were watching the Olympics on TV, Kayla told him she was going to be on that podium one day,” Cobb said. “Well here she is.”
He presented her with a huge bouquet of white and red roses to show how proud of her the city is.
Lake City Secondary School principal Gregg Gaylord spoke on behalf of School District 27.
“The first thing I have to say is wow, I haven’t yelled at the television that much, just cheering your name,” Gaylord said. “From Kayla Moleschi, a Columneetza grad in 2008 to Olympian bronze medalist at the Rio Olympics in 2016. What an outstanding accomplishment.”
Gaylord asked Kayla if she remembered what happened when she touched the ball for the first time in the game against Japan.
“Yah, you scored,” he said, causing Kayla to giggle and the crowd to cheer. “All your hard work has certainly paid off. Congratulations and keep inspiring these young people here in the crowd.”
One of Kayla’s former coaches Mauro Calabrese congratulated her on behalf of the Williams Lake Rustlers Rugby Football Club.
“We are all really proud to see Kayla’s development from when she first showed up on the rugby pitch in Grade 9 and we first started coaching her and knew that she had some pretty good talent,” Calabrese said. “Obviously she’s had some really good work ethic to go along with it.”
He chided her about being able to kick the rugby ball and pass now compared to her first days.
“It’s been great to see her journey and the Rustlers have enjoyed being a part of the ride,” Calabrese said.
“She still lists the Williams Lake Rustlers as her home club which is nice. The Rustlers and the whole community has been supportive of Kayla over the years. It’s been great.”
For the parade the Rustlers had stencilled her name on the side of the team bus and even spray painted the hubcaps and side view mirrors bronze.
Patterson presented her with a large banner signed by every girl that played in the 2016 BC Summer Games, as well as a jersey from BC Rugby with Kayla’s No. 2 on it.
“Thank you Kayla for all your tireless effort,” Patterson said. “I’ve seen Kayla being a young gun on the BC Team all the way to where she is now.”
When it was her turn to take the microphone Kayla fought back the tears and said it was amazing to see the support of the whole town.
“You guys have been following me my whole journey, and a lot of you my whole life,” she said. “I owe a lot to you guys and am truly grateful for everything you have done.”
She thanked her parents Andrea and Ron, saying she would have never made it where she is without them.
“You guys have always taught me to love with all my heart and to give everything that I have into anything I love and dream for.”
After the speeches, Kayla shared her medal with people who wanted a photograph taken with her while local rugby players, coaches and Patterson gave children a taste of the game and its skills in a workshop.
The party closed with a touch rugby game where Kayla eventually joined in for a few minutes.
“The celebration was more than I ever expected,” Moleschi said as it came to a close. “Thank you so much guys, you mean the world to me.”