Asianna Covington hopes to compete in 2016 Summer Olympics
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Asianna Covington (with red hat on) signed papers Feb. 6 that grant her a scholarship to the University of Georgia. Despite a busy sporting schedule, the track star finds time to volunteer at her former elementary school. (Connie Sabo / Special to The B.C. Catholic.)
Asianna Covington couldn't have dreamed of a better ending to high school. The Little Flower Academy senior sat down for a press conference Feb. 6 and announced that she had accepted a full-ride scholarship to the University of Georgia.
A large crowd awaited her inside the LFA gymnasium that morning. Her family, teachers, and 100 of her schoolmates kept chanting her name.
"Thank you for putting this on for me. I really appreciate it," the six-foot-one track athlete began.
More than 50 schools across the United States and a single Canadian university were interested in signing Covington. In the U.S., Feb. 6 is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national letter of intent day. All athletes, regardless of sport, have to choose where they will go for their post-secondary education.
"Initially I didn't know about hammer throw. My parents were pushing me for basketball," she recalled.
However Richmond Kajaks coach Richard Collier convinced her to try hammer throw and discus (see sidebar).
"I had never seen anything like (those sports) before," she admitted. "It's just you and your mind."
Coach Collier reflected on his "real privilege to coach Asianna," and thought, "If anyone can take her to the next level, (University of Georgia track coach) Don Babbitt can."
Her current training regimen, which begins at 5:30 a.m. is broken up by a 90-minute bus ride to LFA, and her school day. Then she practises with the Kajaks track team for three hours, before studying during another long bus ride home.
"It's kind of draining, but you get used to it after a while," she said.
Volunteering has been a cornerstone of Covington's work ethic. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina caused horrific destruction in New Orleans, she set up a recycling drive to raise funds at her elementary school.
The money was used for purchases of non-perishable items which were sent south as "goody bags" for those left homeless.
"God wants us to serve others," she said. "I don't get my talents from me, it's from God."
One of her proudest moments occurred in 2011. She was selected as the flag bearer for Team Canada for the IV Commonwealth Youth Games. Athletes aged 14 to 18 from 69 nations competed on the Isle of Man, U.K.
"Asianna is an honour roll student, contributes volunteer time to read to younger students at her former elementary school, and makes sandwiches for the homeless," remarked Scott Stevenson, director of sport for Commonwealth Games Canada, in a press release.
It was Covington's first international competition, and she was "devastated" by missing out on a medal in the hammer throw by only one metre.
"One thing I love about LFA: you girls showed your true love by supporting her," pointed out Grover Covington, Asianna's father. No stranger to on-field glories, the elder Covington played with the Hamilton Tiger Cats as a powerhouse defensive end from 1981-91.
Over his career, the Canadian Football League Hall of Famer and Grey Cup champion terrorized quarterbacks. His league record of 157 quarterback sacks still stands.
"Being a former pro, (sports), it's a business. If you falter, they'll replace you," he opined. That's why he and his wife Natasha made sure their daughter did not slack off academically.
"It's a known fact: if you don't do well, then you'll lose your scholarship," Grover stated.
His discus, shot put, and hammer-throwing daughter completely agreed. Come fall, she'll be enrolled in the University of Georgia's business school: an "athletics career can go (only) so far."
Her older brother Christian also served as inspiration. The Vancouver College graduate is studying pre-med at Rice University in Houston and stars on the gridiron like his father, as a behemoth defensive tackle.
What about the Olympics and for which country?
Since Covington holds dual citizenship (Canada and the U.S.), which country would she represent at Rio 2016?
Covington played coy. "Whatever team I make, I'd be so blessed," she quietly explained.
"She's always dreamed big," concluded her beaming father.