Biography- Nathia Alejandra González (aka-Ally)
Some might describe me as spontaneous, gitty, and/or intense, hahaha…Yes! My name is Nathia Alejandra Gonzalez, but most people call me Ally. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, 26 years ago. You may be wondering how Ally came from Nathia. At the age of nine, my family and I moved to Canada as refugees. Once we arrived in Canada via Fort Erie, immigration services asked each and every one of us which legal name we wanted to use. I chose Alejandra because as a silly nine-year-old, I was very afraid someone might steal my so very precious first name of Nathia. After a few months of traveling around Eastern Europe for some professional boxing fights in the early 90’s, my father returned with the idea of “Nathia”.
Whenever I ask him, he always says that he got the idea for my name and adjusted it to his own liking from watching a soap opera during his time in Europe. After a couple months of living in Canada and being asked what my name was, native Canadians would say all kinds of things…“ALIYANDRA, did I say that right?” but they would never say my name in the way I wanted it to be announced. Given my limitations with the language at the time (no hablo ingles), I would nod in agreement but deep down I felt furious. I thought: ‘why is ALEHan-DRAH so hard to say?’ Alejandra has got to be one of the most common Hispanic names yet so hard to say for some English speaking people; the J which is supposed to sound like an H and the rolling of the R aren’t always so easy. After a couple of months of living in London, Ontario and attending St. Sebastian Catholic School, my elementary school was having Junior Girls basketball tryouts… I had played basketball in Colombia, but I hated it because truth be told, I had a shitty coach, and it was no fun.
I thought basketball in Canada would be the same as my experience in Colombia but Mr.B, who would become my grade 6 teacher the following year, saw something in me and begged my mom to convince me to come and try out. I said, “no! I don’t like basketball; I love tennis and I want to keep playing just like I did in Colombia. I want to be like Serana Williams.” She looked at me desperate in hopes that I would change my mind, but I was firm. As a last resort my mom forced me to have a meeting with Mr. B to see if I would change my mind. After all, I was very tall (always the tallest in my class), I was lean and very athletic. Two days after that meeting, I showed up to the try outs and to my surprise I made the Junior Girls Basketball team. I had never made any kind of team in my life, so this was very exciting, and I felt accomplished. It was then when I realized that I was actually very talented and that I had my father’s athletic genes (professional boxer and world champion in light-heavyweight).
Another reason to pursue basketball after making my school’s basketball team was because I saw Mr. B as a fun person to be around. Although he had an intense character and was demanding to a kid like me who always wanted her way, he reached a very deep sentiment in my heart. At our first basketball game after Mr. B found it quite exhausting to yell “ALEJANDRA COME HERE!” for every play I messed up, on one of our final time outs of our very first game, he asked me if he could shorten my name to “A-L-I, do you like it?” I Replied, “No, I like A-L-L-Y” and we both smiled in content. I felt so at home with my new nickname that to this day, I introduce myself to native English speakers as “Ally” and to native Spanish speakers as “Nathia” (something associated with always being called by my first name in Colombia). My academic and basketball experience at St. Sebastian influenced my choice of high school. At the age of 14, I decided that I wanted to attend Regina Mundi Catholic College for high school. Most of my friends who played basketball were going to go to school there and that made it that much more important for me, plus Mr. B also coached at RMC. Attending RMC brought a sense of relief to my parents because both academics and basketball would keep me busy enough for them not to have to deal with the typical teenage drama. What did worry them at times was having to come up with the money associated with my tournaments and basketball gear.
Although my parents encouraged it, part of me felt bad for accepting to also play club basketball because as new immigrants adapting to a new country my parents were trying to make ends meet to support our family. By grade nine I was so invested in making it to the WNBA or on getting a scholarship to play basketball at a Division I American University to fund my education. I just needed to have the right scouts scout me so that I could showcase my skills. I was such a good player, so good that I was very close to being selected to go to the first youth Olympics in China (2010), but sports sometimes have a lot of politics. For a good while (2004-2010), I enjoyed every aspect of basketball very much. Tangible things like the latest shoes, travelling all around Canada and USA, and staying at nice hotels; intangible things like making lifelong friendships, growing, and culturing character, decision-making, and numerous laughter’s and moments of joy while staying really fit. In grade 9 my dad suggested that I try out for my High School’s track team, so that I could get faster and stronger for the next basketball season, my mom was not fond of the idea and that year she didn’t allow me to go and try out.
The following year, in grade 10 I went against my mother’s will and decided to go and try out anyways. I learned very quickly that I was a very good sprinter, and my athleticism allowed me to earn a 4th place finish at OFSAA (highest level of high school athletic competition) which was extremely impressive for my first go. Many high school students punched their ticket to a D1 scholarship by being top 3 at OFSAA and I managed to be 4th with 6 weeks of training. I knew at that moment that I had something good going for me and that I was ready to hang up my basketball shoes because I wanted to give track and field a go, knowing that it would allow me to grow not only athletically but also as a person. My high school track coach that same year would become my club coach. His name was Harry, he was a very good coach, very dedicated (20x more intense than Mr. B), who was an Olympian himself, and who saw the fire and the competitive spirit in me. That year and the following would be bliss for me; I bettered my times, shattered records, and was having a lot of fun outside of the “team” atmosphere. I was now the star in my own show, but I didn’t know it would also come with a high price, injury. I had never had an injury and I thought I was invincible, precisely at the point where I thought I could do both while I figured out the best way to transition from basketball to track, this was when I had my very first injury. Months before my injury, my mother said, “you have to choose one, you can’t do both, it will be too much”. It felt like my world was crumbling down in front of my eyes, especially because as a younger athlete I had built my self-concept around sport. This very first injury kept me from sport for about 18 months and during this time I even fell sick to a very serious case of gastritis. I was stressed out, I felt depressed, inadequate, sad, and an indescribable anger that I didn’t know how to manage or channel. I thought that the only way to get my life back would be to heal quickly so that I could return to being my old self, but 18 months felt like a punishment.
Upon my return, I had a great appreciation for my injury; it sparked an even bigger fire in me. I was eager to get back stronger than ever before. In this journey my interest in injury rehabilitation became very apparent but also an obsession. In the 18 months of injury, I spent 12 months researching trying to figure out what it was that I had injured because many health care professionals had variant opinions, and some were inconclusive. Months after I returned to sport from my injury, I didn’t feel like myself for a long time and it was because I felt a lot of unease in my physical body. How was I supposed to perform at the highest level if I wasn’t feeling at my best? Even when I wasn’t at my best, I accomplished some of my proudest moments in sport to date. I managed to make my first National team as a Junior for Team Colombia after missing a spot on the Canadian trials for the Junior Panama’s (2013) because I was not yet a Canadian citizen and because I had to be top three in Canada and I placed 4th at nationals. After the disappointment of not making Canada’s national team, my mom suggested that I return to Colombia to try out for their National team, for which the trials would happen the following weekend. God was speaking to me and giving me a second opportunity. I made the Colombian National team for the Junior Panama’s and it was bittersweet championship for me to have placed 4th. From that moment on many opportunities opened up for me; the opportunity to represent Colombia in the South American games in Argentina, training camps in the US and Europe, and even a couple scholarship offers (that I turned down because I would be getting better education in Canada at a fraction of the cost because they scholarships weren’t full ride).
In my first year of university I was part of Western’s varsity track and field team but my God that must have been one of the toughest seasons as an athlete that I have experienced because I felt my love for the sport decline very rapidly more as a reflection of my own injuries. Both my second and third year of university, I decided I Wanted to focus on training and healing properly from my injuries. These two years were very challenging for me because although I trained and did a few competitions to keep the competitive spirit alive, I also found that these two were my toughest years academically. I often asked myself if it was because I didn’t have as many things on my plate or simply because I still felt like I was living in a critical bubble of depression? Near the end of my 3rd year of university, positivity started to roll more on my court. At the end of my 3rd year I went to a Bike trip in France with some of my classmates from kinesiology, who are now some of my best friends. Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy travelling and this trip gave me a new sense of purpose diving deep into the French culture. Prior to leaving for this trip I learned some things about a type of bodywork called Structural Integration/Rolfing that focuses on restoring movement and function in the body via the connective tissue called the myofascia. When I returned from my trip, I had sessions scheduled because I was so ready to experience something that would be the deal maker or breaker of continuing in track and field.
Rolfing restored movement in my body and my self-confidence with ten sessions. I was back on the track like I never left, and I continue to train in hopes of making the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. No other sport has given me the opportunity for self-growth and development the way track and field have. I have learned to overcome obstacles and how to redefine myself and self-concept with the toolbox I have picked up in this sport. I feel that I am gifted but more than that I feel truly blessed to have a sport that is aligning me with my destiny. After graduating University in 2017, I decided that what I wanted to do post University was to become a Structural Integrator/Rolfer because this work has inspired so much in me that I want to inspire others in a similar way. I currently work as a Rolfer part time and the other half of my time I devote it to training. I feel truly blessed to be able to tell my story and to inspire something as little as a smile of hope in someone else whether it is through my story, sport and/or through my presence in the type of bodywork I do