Ashley Callingbull-Rabbit moves from Sports Illustrated to Sask. sports

Former Ms. Universe Ashley Callingbull-Rabbit joins the Saskatoon Blades and Saskatchewan Rush as an ambassador

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Ashley Callingbull-Rabbit is coming out of a two-year pandemic healthier, fitter and ready to take on a new Indigenous role with two sports teams in Saskatchewan.

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Never one to just take a break, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Callingbull-Rabbit found herself at a loss as to what to do.

Two years later, she is now married to hockey coach Wacey Rabbit, a former captain of the Saskatoon Blades who now returns to the Blades organization as an assistant coach. Callingbull-Rabbit also joins the Blades and the Saskatchewan Rush as an ambassador. Both will be included in the native.

In the spring of 2020, the former Ms. Universe decided to focus on her fitness — a journey that led to a Sports Illustrated Magazine photo shoot and being announced as a game host for the Edmonton Elks football team with CISN Country’s Chris Scheetz.

A Cree woman hosting the game is a monumental moment for all Cree women and a first for Canadian soccer.

“Being a proud member of Treaty Six, I have always been a fan of Edmonton’s sports teams,” said Callingbull-Rabbit. “I am excited to join one of my hometown teams with the Edmonton Elks.”

“Having Ashley be the voice of the Elks on game day is not only a source of pride for Enoch, but for all Treaty Six First Nations,” said Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin.

Her fitness journey began in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I thought I had to make a change,” she said. “My lifestyle is busy, like constantly flying, traveling and working. But when the pandemic started and it was time to go into quarantine, I just felt lost.”

Lost and sad.

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“I was sitting on the couch and eating cheese. I didn’t feel as ambitious as I used to because everything was so uncertain, so I thought I’m not feeling well mentally at the moment.”

She decided to start with small workouts and gradually build up her exercise routine. “And now I’ve been doing it for almost two years. I’m in the best shape of my life. I feel amazing,” she said.

“It feels good to take care of myself physically because it helps mentally, and I feel stronger all around.”

It also paid dividends. In May, the former Mrs. World became the first Native American woman to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.

It was an amazing opportunity, Callingbull-Rabbit said, because thousands of women applied for it.

She put together a video for Sports Illustrated that showed who she is and what she stands for. She received a message that she entered the casting round with 50 other models, all from different backgrounds, with different stories and achievements.

“And then, I remember on March 1 it was almost 6 in the morning and no one calls me at 6 in the morning unless it’s an emergency.

“I got on the phone, I was half awake, and they said, ‘We’re calling from Sports Illustrated and we want to let you know that we’ve selected you and if you’re free to fly to the Dominican Republic. ‘

“I said yes and I cried. I thought it wasn’t real,” she recalled.

“I thought I might wake up, like in a dream. And then within days I was in the Dominican Republic shooting for Sports Illustrated, it just happened so fast.”

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It was a wonderful experience and a real honor, she added. “I’ve always pushed myself and always worked towards my goals.”

One of her goals is to help vulnerable and exploited women. “One day, I hope to start a women’s shelter because my mom was running away from domestic violence,” Callingbull-Rabbit said.

“For me, it is important to give women a second chance at life, and especially to help their children,” she added. “I don’t want them to go through what I went through.”

She challenged others to add movement to their lives, both for their physical and mental health: “movement is medicine”.

• Chevi Rabbit is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Alberta Native News

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