Bellerose graduate and rugby star Halle Walters is one of 30 Canadians to earn a spot in an elite sports development program.
After competing with 100 of the best youth athletes in the nation, St. Albert native Walters has earned a coveted spot on RBC’s Future Olympians roster. This elite talent identification and funding program, open to Canadians between the ages of 14 and 25, is “designed to find young athletes with Olympic potential, and provide them with the resources they need to achieve their podium dreams,” according to the program’s website.
Having excelled at an initial combine-style qualifying event in April that gauged performance metrics like speed, power, and endurance, Walters was subsequently invited to the program’s final selection camp in Ottawa in October, where her strong showing landed her among a highly talented group of 30 young athletes. With the support of seasoned coaches and the financial assistance required to focus on training, all 30 are now barrelling through Canada’s Olympic pipeline.
And while Walters is now on a trajectory to represent her country on the international stage, she’s still a relative newcomer to rugby, having bumped elbows in her first scrum just a few short years ago.
Like all Alberta high school teams, COVID-19 restrictions prevented Bellerose Composite High School’s rugby program from regular play in 2020 and 2021 — Walters’ Grade 10 and 11 years. Nevertheless, the five-foot, five-inch winger made the most of her senior campaign to apply her athleticism and familiarize herself with the sport. In the summer after graduation, she took to the pitch for her hometown St. Albert Rugby Football Club (SARFC), immediately catching the eye of scouts and launching what has quickly become one of the most promising careers in Canadian women’s rugby.
“The coaches at SARFC and Bellerose definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone when encouraging me to try a new sport and positions, but now looking back, it was one of the best things they could have done for me,” Walters told The Gazette. “Being able to captain my high school team last year was crucial in my development, not only as a player, but as a person, and I was so lucky to have had such supporting and influential people in that process. I learned so much about myself and the sport that have been so beneficial to me at a university level.”
Indeed, Walters’ made the decision after high school to further her career as a U Sports collegiate athlete with the University of Alberta Pandas. Off the turf, she is focused on working through a kinesiology degree — an undertaking that can be incredibly demanding for students with such significant commitments outside the classroom.
“University has been an adjustment for me with an increase of content in courses and training for rugby, but I have started to adjust by recognizing what my priorities are and understanding what I need to do to be successful in achieving my goals,” Walters acknowledged. “For me, what has been important in finding a balance is recognizing that I can't do everything, and that at the end of the day, sports and school are my main priorities.”
Competing at the highest level of post-secondary athletics is itself a massive achievement. And yet, as is the case for all of the stars on RBC’s roster, the ultimate goal is to don the red and white at an Olympic games.
Though the Canadian women’s rugby team failed to make it out of a tough group stage in the 2020 Olympics, it managed an impressive 33-0 win against Brazil, a success the program is poised to build on in coming games — potentially, with one of St. Albert’s own on the roster.
“L.A. 2028 is for sure a huge goal of mine. However, I think it is also super important for me to focus on the present and concentrate on what's important now instead of worrying about the future.”