Former UVic Vikes soccer captain in brave battle against brain cancer

Mackenzie Rigg experienced plenty of wins and losses during a five-season soccer career with the University of Victoria, which concluded with him captaining the Vikes in 2018-19. But none of them matched the stakes the 25-year-old faces since being suddenly diagnosed in July with brain cancer, officially known as Astrocytoma Grade IV.

Current and former UVic players on both the men’s and women’s teams, including his girlfriend and Vikes player Trinity Kettyls, have rallied around Rigg and are conducting a fundraiser Nov. 20-22 and will be running 270 kilometres in a relay over three days, with all donations going to brain tumour research. The 270 kilometres and $27,000 fundraising goal represents the 27 Canadians diagnosed with a brain tumour every day. The goal is to make the initiative, named Vikes Kick Cancer, an annual event. Donations can be made at https://www.braintumour.ca/events/vikes-kick-cancer/.

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“It obviously came as a shock,” said Rigg of the diagnosis.

The UVic business grad, a fit young man just one year removed from varsity athletics, expected to be beginning law school at the University of Calgary this fall. Instead, he is undergoing radiation treatment at Vancouver General Hospital.

“It’s a crappy thing. It’s sheer chance and not because of an unhealthy lifestyle. That has helped me embrace it more,” said Rigg.

“It is going to be whatever I make of it. That’s why I am choosing to focus on the incredible, truly amazing, support I have received.”

Rigg came to play for the Vikes after the Kelowna product was named tournament MVP in leading the Okanagan-Mission Secondary Huskies to the B.C. Double-A high school title. The person who presented the provincial championship and MVP awards to Rigg on the field that day was UVic head coach Bruce Wilson, who wasted no time in recruiting the promising defender.

“It is sometimes isolating for students to jump from high school to university but I found a home and sense of community at UVic with the Vikes soccer program,” said Rigg.

He played the same position as Wilson and an immediate connection was made between Rigg and the former pro, who was also a defender. Wilson, who captained Canada in the 1986 World Cup, immediately sensed Rigg’s qualities as a natural leader.

“Mackenzie is a wonderful kid and was a very intelligent, steady and reliable right fullback who I relied on for five years,” said Wilson.

“One thing that really stood out was his great leadership abilities. As he went through his career and became more of a senior player on the team, we made sure that all potential high schools recruits talked to Mackenize.”

Rigg played 59 games in his UVic career, 49 as a starter, and logged 4,444 minutes. He was an academic all-Canadian in the 2016-17 season. The high point was the Canada West silver medal the Vikes won in 2015-16. Now Rigg is using those lessons from sports in fighting his greatest battle.

“You learn as an athlete to work toward a goal and you learn to trust the process, even though it’s not always a straight line,” he said.

Rigg was signed by the Victoria Highlanders after graduating from UVic but never got to play for the USL League 2 team. “Every day is a roller coaster of emotions but Mackenzie is determined to fight this,” said Vikes fourth-year women’s player Kettyls.

“We are inspired by his attitude and resolve. He gives us the confidence.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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