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Moving across the pond has paid off handsomely for UNBC’s Kensho Ando, Alina Shakirova

Sometimes you have to travel great distances to achieve your dreams.

For Kensho Ando and Alina Shakirova, this couldn’t be more true.

Both athletes were bestowed with the highest honour among their peers during the UNBC Timberwolves athletics banquet on Sunday from the Prince George Golf and Curling Club.

Ando was named co-winner of the Male Athlete of the Year alongside T-Wolves basketball star and local product Tyrell Laing.

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Ando, who hails from Tokyo, Japan, crossed the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 2019 and touched down in BC’s northern capital to realize his dream of playing university soccer.

He believes the 73-hundred kilometre trek has allowed him to evolve as a soccer player.

“I couldn’t imagine this without the guys or our coach Steve (Simonson). I think I have improved a ton since I came here and I am glad to have the honours.”

“It’s crazy that I have emerged and then I was called and it just feels so crazy.”

Ando is one of two Japanese players on the T-Wolves men’s soccer team. The other is fellow countrymen Toranosuke Omori.

Shakirova on the other hand, came to Prince George from Moscow, Russia while still in high school, suiting up for Duchess Park before signing on the dotted line with UNBC’s women’s basketball team.

The 24-year-old was named UNBC’s Female Athlete of the Year, two years after tearing her ACL late in the 2019 season.

Shakirova had her best season to date, averaging 18.5 points per game, good enough for second in the conference, trailing only Ashlyn Day of the Victoria Vikes.

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“I am definitely thankful for everyone and it’s an honour to be called one of the best athletes in the whole school because there are so many good athletes – so it’s a big honour.”

“Since my first year, I have been looking up at them because some of those athletes were on my team. I was like one day, it would be my dream to join this club and I did.”

More than 90 student-athletes were in attendance, as team and department-wide awards were handed out, and graduating players were recognized for their time in Timberwolves colours.

Team awards were also handed out, and are as follows:

Men’s Basketball:
Most Valuable Player: Tyrell Laing
Most Inspirational Player: Vova Pluzhnikov
Zane Robison Award (Most Dedicated Player): Chris Ross
Best Defensive Player: Fareed Shittu
Practice Wins Leader: Vova Pluzhnikov
Rookie of the Year: Darren Hunter

Women’s Basketball:
Most Valuable Player: Alina Shakirova
Best Defensive Player: Sveta Boykova
Rookie of the Year: Sarah Kuklisin
Most Improved Player: Anastasia Soltes
Leadership Award: Emma vanBruinessen

Men’s Soccer:
Most Valuable Player: Kensho Ando
Best Defensive Player: Cody Gysbers
Green and Gold Award: Mitch Linley
Golden Boot (Most Goals): Owen Stewart, Michael Henman

Women’s Soccer:
Most Valuable Player: Kiana Swift, Brooke Molby
Offensive Player of the Year: Kjera Hayman
Defensive Player of the Year: Avery Nystedt, Kalista Kirkness
Green & Gold Award: Cara Brawdy

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