Ajax twins who gave up basketball for wrestling now representing Canada
The Slater sisters' coach says they can 'go as far as they want,' even to the Olympics
When you look at how much identical twin sisters Dejah and Shantay Slater, 17, have already accomplished in wrestling, it's hard to believe they've only been at it for two-and-a-half years, and it wasn't even their favourite sport.
The teens from Ajax recently placed first at the junior national tournament in St. Catharines, earning them the right to compete for Canada at the Junior Pan American games in Peru and the World Championships in Finland.
But the duo, who started with gymnastics and cheerleading as children, played basketball early on in high school, Dejah says one of their toughest decisions was whether to give it up to focus on wrestling full time.
"My coach would always ask us to come out for the wrestling team, but our heart was dedicated to basketball."
Shantay says initially wrestling was not something they were overly enthusiastic about.
"I remember after our very first wrestling practice we walked out of the wrestling room and we looked at each other and we both agreed that we were never coming back ... but we went back and I think that's one of the best decisions we`ve made."
The twins wrestle for Team Impact. Located in Ajax, it's been around for over 40 years and is considered one of the most prestigious wrestling clubs in all of Canada.
Both girls wrestle in the 70-kilo and 75-kilo weight classes, which is considered heavyweight in female wrestling.
Being a part of the club has helped the girls accomplish a lot in a short period of time, including winning the 2016 Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) title, and placing third and fourth at their very first nationals.
Dejah won the United World Wrestling trials last year, placing her on the Canadian National Team, which took her to Peru to compete in the Pan Am championships, where she was third.
Competitions are a huge part of the sport, but the sisters just finished the Juvenile nationals where they had to compete against each other in the finals for gold.
Shantay says sibling rivalry is one thing, but actually wrestling your twin is another.
"We don't even practice together because we do get into fights on the mat. We try to avoid wrestling with each other as much as possible so that was a really bad experience."
Inspiration vs. sibling rivalry
Dejah and Shantay aspire to make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
They say their biggest role models are tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. The girls say even though they don't play the same sport, the willpower and love that the Williams sisters have for tennis inspires them to have the same drive in wrestling.
There is a noted professional rivalry between Venus and Serena Williams. The Slater twins say they definitely have some sibling rivalry. Shantay recalls how it felt when her sister made the national team without her last year.
"I kind of envied, and really wanted to be that person obviously. That took a major toll on me because as twins I feel like people really expect you to be identical all the time ... I remember when she got all her Canada gear and I wouldn't touch it, but when she was away I would try it on and look in the mirror."
Their coach, Stan Tzogas, says he tries to show them the positive aspect of being able to work together.
"I've never really promoted the rivalry; I've actually promoted more the togetherness and working together and the benefits ... We've had this talk many, many times with them about the biggest advantage of being able to be training partners together and helping each other grow and get better."
Tzogas says he has no doubt these two have a bright future ahead of them in wrestling, and that the Olympics are certainly not out of reach.
"As people you're not going to find finer people than those two ... I think they can go as far as they want."