Whether it is driving across the country together, travelling the world attending swim meets, or day-to-day life, Nikita Ens and her mom Monica are a tightknit pair.
“My mom has been amazing for my whole life, and so has my dad, but mom especially is by my side all the time,” said Nikita, a Para swimmer from Saskatoon. “She helps me change and get out of the pool, all those intimate details, and we can laugh about it.”
Nikita, who also refers to her mom as ‘Mama Bear’ (“If someone’s ever mean to me, she’ll bring the club out and protect me, even though I’m 32!”), says there are many things she appreciates about her mom.
“Her beautiful heart, she’s just so loving and patient, she doesn’t expect anyone to sing about her. She’s just a humble, supportive, nice lady and I want to be like her someday.”
Monica exhibits that humility when she speaks about her daughter, who she equally admires.
“First I’ll just say that Niki is strong and determined, and always has been, even before her accident. As a mom, that can sometimes be trying and challenging but in her case now, it’s been a definite gift and a positive. She has really pushed herself and we as parents have just tried to encourage her along the way.”
In 2014, Nikita was involved in a car accident which resulted in her injury, incomplete paraplegia. Before then, she was a regular in the pool, swimming and working as a lifeguard.
It is almost four years ago to the day – in late April 2017 – that Nikita went to the pool to swim for the first time after her accident, something Monica remembers being quite nervous about.
“She thinks she’s just going to get in the pool without a life jacket, and of course I was horrified and finally talked her into wearing a life belt at least,” Monica recalls. “Then I wondered how we would get her in the pool. She said she was just going to free fall headfirst from her chair into the pool. For a mother these things are hard to see and watch; you are always a mother no matter how old your kids are!
“In she went. She splashed around for a minute or so, took off her life belt and started doing the backstroke! There’s been no looking back since.”
Nikita immediately connected with the local swim team and her Para swimming career has taken off, with her mom right next to her.
“We made the connection with [coach] Eric Kramer and the Saskatoon Lasers Swim Club, and since then it’s just been a crazy journey leading to the world championships in London,” said Nikita, who says making her parents proud is definitely a motivating factor in her career.
A 2019 Petro-Canada FACE grant recipient as an up-and-coming athlete, Nikita’s biggest competition so far is the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, England, where she qualified for finals in the S3 100m freestyle and 50m backstroke. She holds the Canadian record in both of those events.
The mother-daughter duo are also regular, compatible travel partners. Nikita fondly references their ‘Epic Road Trip’ in 2011, which took them throughout the entire continental United States, something she hopes to do again in the future (“we’ve honed our skills with Para travelling”).
There is no doubt that Nikita will always have the support of her mom, and says her mom is deserving of something athletes are quite familiar with.
“If they gave out medals, she would have a gold.”