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Comox Valley athlete set to represent Canada at the 2023 Youth Commonwealth Games

Artworks carved by the rugby player are sold to raise funds for his trip to the Caribbean
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Multidisciplinary athlete Sebastian Lambert, 18, is set to represent Canada in the 2023 Youth Commonwealth Games in rugby sevens. (Photo supplied)

Sebastian Lambert is what many would call a phenom.

Humble in nature, Lambert is a man of few words who maintains a timid demeanour.

After speaking with the athlete’s surroundings, one thing comes out again and again; Lambert seems to be the embodiment of Twain’s adage: actions speak louder than words.

Upbringing and discovering football

Born and raised on Denman Island, Lambert had a quiet upbringing, growing up with his two siblings and his single mother.

His first introduction to sports was soccer and swimming.

It was only years later that Lambert would find his calling in American football. Showcasing natural abilities from the get-go, the young teenager quickly made a name for himself in the local sports scene.

Nicknamed “Ninja” by teammates and spectators, Lambert was known for his speed, agility, and strength.

At 14, the young athlete was playing on both offence and defence as well as being the team’s kicker for the Comox Valley Raiders. It is this versatility that ultimately earned him the prestigious title of MVP.

Today, four years later, the 6’1” 195-pound wide receiver still wears the Raiders’ jersey and was awarded the provincial MVP for his performance in the 2022 season.

However, his time with the home team is coming to an end. Freshly graduated from Vanier, Lambert is set to leave the Valley this summer for Victoria.

“He’s going to play this year for the West Shore Rebels of the Canadian Junior Football League,” says Lambert’s mentor Aaron Kitto. “Out of all the players in Canada, Sebastian received the team’s first letter of intent from coach Dexter Janke, who’s a former CFL player.”

Rugby

In parallel to football, Lambert developed a keen interest in rugby in his later years of high school.

In 2018, Lambert joined the school’s rugby team and immediately shone on the turf.

“Sebastian is really smart and he picks up the game really fast,” said Kitto. “That’s the reason why he has done so well in such a short time frame. I think that it’s a credit to his intelligence as well.”

Following his first season, the pandemic forced Lambert to take a two-year hiatus from rugby.

Lambert came back on the pitch in Grade 11. It’s at this time that player-coach of the Comox Valley Kicker JB Nikkel first encountered Sebastian.

“The first time I saw him I was just like: ‘Who is this kid?’,” said Nikkel. “He was younger and he was playing better ball than most seniors.”

Stunned by the young man’s prowess on the field, Nikkel invited Lambert to join the Kickers.

“I’m still a little old school in my way and if I don’t see work ethic, I don’t really put too much energy or effort into you,” said Nikkel. “But that kid shows nothing but potential. Anything he does, he just pushes so hard and no one else does it for him. Sebastian is super coachable too. He’s going to become so dangerous.”

In 2023, with less than three years of cumulative rugby experience, Lambert helped the Kickers to win the first provincial championship in the club’s 134-year-old history.

“He’s the youngest kid out of the Valley that won a provincial championship with a men’s rugby team,” adds Nikkel. “Not many 18 years olds can say that.”

Before this win, Lambert went to a week-long camp in Abbotsford to try and earn a spot on the Canadian U18 rugby team.

Despite having significantly less experience than the other 58 best players in the country competing at the camp, he managed to secure a place among the national sevens’ team.

From field to classroom

Lambert also excels in the classroom.

Although he was committed to two sports teams and regularly competed in track and field events, the graduate always managed to find time to study and perform at school.

Maintaining a 95 per cent academic average throughout high school, Lambert made numerous appearances over the years on the Principal’s Honour Roll.

More than talent

Behind this talent, is an incorruptible work ethic.

“He trains like a professional athlete,” says Nikkel. “He’s gonna go places if he keeps grinding. I don’t know any kid his age in the Comox Valley doing what he’s doing. I mean all eyes are on this kid.”

It is this discipline that allowed Lambert to gain 25 pounds of muscle mass over the last year, train over 20 hours weekly, and consistently commute for two hours, every day, from Denman Island to Vanier and back.

“When you put on a professional or national jersey comes a time when you go your personal dark place and that means you can’t stop,” said Nikkel. “Even if there is an injury, you got to push through it. If you feel like you’re about to pass out, you got to push through it. I could see this potential in this kid. He pushes through it.

“He had an injury during a quarter-final game and I told him that he could rest. He refused and said: ‘I want to go bleed with my brothers.’ After hearing this I said: ‘Alright, you earned your place on the team and your right to play.’ You can’t coach that to anyone.”

Future Plans

For the moment, the young man’s goal is to get his name out. Whether it’s through playing for the Westshore Rebels or the Westshore Rugby Club - to which he is both already committed - he just wants to charm talent scouts and recruiters.

“Sports represent everything in my life. My life has been revolving around sports,” admits Lambert. “My goal would be to play professionally.”

Waiting for his big break, Lambert will start a carpentry apprenticeship and work for Jacob de Goede - former Canadian rugby player and son of rugby hall-of-famer Hans de Goede.

Though the quiet athlete is leaving the Valley soon, he already left in his wake an indelible mark on the younger generation of athletes.

“There’s three years’ worth of kids looking up to him,” observed Kitto. “It really motivates the younger ones to get out there, work hard, and maybe accomplish something as Sebastian did. They see that his hard work is paying off.”

Fundraiser

Lambert is set to fly for Trinidad and Tobago on Aug. 2 to Aug. 12.

Evaluating the cost of the 10-day trip at $6,000, the athlete, with the help of Kitto, created a fundraiser with the hope of lessening the financial burden of his journey.

Adopting a raffle approach, Lambert offers ticket-buyers a chance to win one of three prizes including a meticulously handcrafted paddle carved by the athlete, showcasing the native tale of the bear with a short tail.

“It took him over 100 hours to create the paddle,” says Kitto. “He poured his heart and soul into it and it’s something that he’s very passionate about.”

Along with the paddle, Lambert will raffle a little raven he carved out of a wooden board and an autographed Westshore Rebels football jersey.

Raffle tickets are $20 each and can be purchased via e-transfer at slambert114@gmail.com. Prizes will be drawn on Sept. 4.

“We’re just trying to get Sebastian kind of a jump start in his athletic life,” says Kitto. “He is from a single-parent home and we just wanna help him out so his first year (away from home) is not as difficult.”

Nikkel believes Lambert’s potential is limitless.

“I could see him doing anything really,” said Nikkel. “If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s gonna be wearing the national jersey if that’s what he wants. I see him bumping shoulders with some of the greats. He’s gonna do the Comox Valley community very proud. I love that kid.”