It's personal for UVic Vikes Championship Breakfast keynote speaker Hirayama

There couldn’t be a more pitch-perfect keynote speaker than Nathan Hirayama for this morning’s 14th-annual University of Victoria Vikes Championship Breakfast. The event, which has raised $6.7-million toward student-athlete scholarships since 2008, cemented his career at UVic.

The former rugby star said if it wasn’t for the athletic scholarship received, with funds mainly from the Vikes Championship Breakfast, he would have stayed at his family home in Richmond, after Grade 12 at McRoberts Secondary, and played for the UBC Thunderbirds.

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“It was the difference in me making the move to UVic or not,” said Hirayama.

“It made a huge impact on my life and opened so many doors.”

It led to a career as a UVic star who went on to play for Canada in two XVs World Cups, on the HSBC World Series as the all-time career third-leading world scorer in sevens with 1,859 points, and as the Canadian co-flagbearer in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

“I looked at the UVic roster at the time, and it was loaded with national team players, and thought that’s where I want to be,” said Hirayama.

“UVic meant so much to my career and playing with the Vikes are some of my best memories. I want to stress in my speech to the current Vikes student-athletes that it’s a special time and to enjoy their time on campus and in varsity sports.”

The Vikes Championship Breakfast will be held virtually via Zoom for the second consecutive year. That didn’t stop a record $630,000 from being raised last year, when former UVic basketball star Deb Yeboah was the keynote speaker.

“The donors, sponsors and alumni have been great, and so generous, in supporting this event over the years and have played an important role in the lives of UVic student-athletes,” said Hirayama.

He added that most student-athletes during his time worked during the summers, but work during the season is out of the question, because of the demands of school combined with varsity sports. The scholarship money allows student-athletes to continue with their sports.

Past Vikes Championship Breakfast keynote speakers have included Olympic gold-medallist triathlete Simon Whitfield, Olympic gold-medallist rower Adam Kreek, Paralympics multi-medallist swimmer Stephanie Dixon, former Canada rugby World Cup captain Gareth Rees, two-time field-hockey Olympian Nancy Mollenhauer and Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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