Eva Paniti-Meyer has spent a lifetime devoted to, training for, competing in, and coaching gymnastics. Of Hungarian descent, Eva grew up in Romania where she was invited to join a local gymnastics club at the age of seven. From that point on, she knew she would be involved in gymnastics the rest of her life. “It was my playground, and I instantly knew I would coach.” said Paniti-Meyer.
Eva enjoyed great success as a young gymnast in Romania, earning a spot on the Romanian National Team from 1974-1976. She was training on the National Olympic Team in preparation for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal when she was injured just days before the trial. Believing that everything happens for a reason, Eva credits that injury for turning the path in her life towards her new home of Medicine Hat.
Eva graduated with a Coaching Degree in Physical Education from the University of Bucharest. Given her Hungarian descent and the political environment at the time, she found it difficult to find coaching work in Romania. Knowing she would have to flee from her Hungarian and Romanian origins to follow her dream, Eva made five failed attempts by bus, plane and boat before the kindness of one anonymous border guard on Christmas Eve, 1986, allowed Eva to cross into Vienna, Austria. She spent time in a refugee camp, applying for immigration to both Canada and the United States. Four months later, she was invited to the Canadian Embassy in Vienna and arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba on September 28, 1987 with $900 in her pocket, knowing not a word of English. Eva made her own way to Medicine Hat to stay with a family friend on October 5, 1987 and has called this city home ever since.
In 1988, Eva met a nurse, Judy, who was involved in what was known as the Vincent Massey Gymnastics Club. Nurse Judy brought Eva to the school one evening where she was hired as a gymnastics coach on the spot. Later that year, the Board of Directors of the Vincent Massey Gymnastics Club purchased the old racquetball building in the light industrial area and changed their name to the Salta Gymnastics Club. Eva not only brought a wealth of experience, coming from the formidable Romanian National and Olympic Team of the mid 1970s, but also a strong work ethic and unparalleled commitment and love for coaching, children, and the sport of gymnastics.
The following year, Eva was named Head Coach and Program Coordinator, roles she has been serving for the past 30 years. In that time, she has quadrupled the size of the gym, while personally coaching thousands of children and instilling a love for gymnastics into their lives.
One former athlete said Eva’s coaching method helped them see the impossible as real and tangible. “She has an incredible ability to look at a situation, the strengths and limitations within that situation, and then make a reasonable and achievable plan of action for how to change and improve that situation. She works through each step diligently, with persistent attention, commitment, enthusiasm and patience until one day, we all look back at what was.”
Though stern and honest in her coaching technique, her soft side saw many of the athletes look to Eva as a second mother. Girls come back to the club as students away at university, then as mothers to enroll their children.
On top of developing many great athletes over the years, including her own daughter, Olivia, who began coaching at the age of 12, Eva takes care of the day to day operations of the club. She oversees the Recreation programs, Salta Achievement Squad, Men’s Program, trampoline program and Competitive teams. Along with coaching, you will often find her answering the phone, helping a member at the desk, or cleaning something up around the gym. Eva has devoted her life to operating the club, wearing endless hats while doing so.
Because of Eva’s dedication and commitment, Salta Gymnastics has a respected reputation not only in Medicine Hat, but provincially and nationally as well. Eva has served on the Alberta Gymnastics Federation Board of Directors and the Women’s Program Committee.
When asked what she considered to be her greatest personal accomplishment, Eva responded, “Living out a dream I had when I was seven years old. Never give up on your dreams. I’ve put my heart and soul into Salta Gymnastics.”
Eva and her husband Tom have one daughter, Olivia.
Dan Federkeil is one of Medicine Hat’s most decorated athletes. At the time of induction, Dan is one of five men from Medicine Hat to have played in the Canadian Football League and is the only player from Medicine Hat to make it to the National Football League. He is one of only 10 players in the world to have earned both a Super Bowl ring and a Grey cup ring.
Dan began his football career playing for one of the first Hawks bantam football teams in Medicine Hat. He soon moved on to play basketball and football with the Hat High Mohawks. Dan was a Rangeland Football Conference All-Star and led his team to the Provincial Final in 2000.
Dan made his University of Calgary Dinos debut as the youngest player ever to dress in the school’s history, after turning 17 just two months earlier. He continued to play five seasons on the defensive line at the University of Calgary and was a second-team CIS all-star in both 2003 and 2005. In 2005, Dan was a finalist for the J.P Metras Trophy as the top lineman in Canadian university football, and was selected as the Dinos’ male athlete of the year.
Dan was drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Argonauts in the 2006 Canadian Football League (CFL) Draft, but instead signed with the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League (NFL). Interestingly, the late Cal Murphy scouted Dan for the offensive line in Indianapolis, even though his experience was on defense. Dan went on to play special teams once he made the playing field. That year, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI and gave Federkeil his coveted Super Bowl ring. Dan retired from the NFL in 2009, having played in 26 regular season games, starting in three regular season games and one playoff game.
In 2013, Dan returned to football when the Calgary Stampeders acquired his rights from the Toronto Argonauts who had drafted him in 2006. He went on to play 59 games with the Stampeders in 5 years, culminating in four playoff games and three Grey Cup games, which, in 2014, the Stampeders won against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He announced his retirement from professional football a second time in February of 2018.
As his career unfolded, Dan continued to guest coach for the Hat High Mohawks and attend team banquets when available. In 2012, Dan established the Judith Louise Federkeil Memorial Football Award in memory of his mother. The award supports a graduate of Medicine Hat High School who goes on to study at the University of Calgary and is a member of the Dinos football team.
Dan is known for being very private, and is not one to flaunt his accomplishments. He describes himself as an athlete at heart, trying and excelling at almost any sport. When attending the University of Calgary, and while playing football for the Dinos, he tried out for the basketball team and made it, however, the university prevented him from playing on both teams.
Even now, Dan continues to be active in recreational and competitive pursuits, recently taking up the sport of triathlon.
Dan is married to Shannon and has two children, Abigail and Atlas.
Kelly Risling began golfing in 1967 at what was then the 9-hole sand-green course in Redcliff. Three years later, at the age of 14, he won his first tournament: the 1970 Redcliff Junior Championship. Fast-forward to 2019 and Kelly has amassed more than 160 tournament championships, recorded seven holes-in-one and two double-eagles and has golfed competitively in every Canadian province, except for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Kelly was born May 23, 1956 in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, but moved to Medicine Hat 10 days later. He has called Medicine Hat and Redcliff home ever since. From an early age, competitive sports played an integral part of his life: Little League and Pony League baseball (1966-1971); Peewee-Juvenile hockey (1966-1972); junior high football, basketball, volleyball, track and field, badminton and cross-country running (1968-1971); high school basketball and track and field (1974-1976); college basketball (1974-1976); and boxing (1976-1980) under coach Ev Nieman, a fellow Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame inductee. Kelly was a runner-up at the Alberta Golden Gloves boxing championships in 1980, only because officials forbid him from competing in the final match due to a broken nose he sustained earlier, a decision he still finds troublesome.
Kelly attended Medicine Hat College on a two-year basketball scholarship before transferring to the University of Alberta where he obtained his Bachelor of Physical Education degree in 1978. He furthered his academic education at the University of Lethbridge, graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree in 1980. A 23-year teaching career would ensue until 2003 when he ventured into real estate sales, which he practices to this day.
To many, Kelly’s name is associated with the sport of golf. Locally, he was the Medicine Hat City Champion 25 times in 37 years, including nine consecutive years between 1996 - 2004. He holds 30 Club Champion titles, including 22 at Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club, five at Connaught Golf Club and three at Desert Blume Golf Club. Kelly has won 47 Open Championships, including 13 Victoria Day Opens, nine Southeastern Opens and 25 Redcliff Opens. He has gone an astounding 52 consecutive years of winning two tournaments per year, and had a career high of eight wins in 1996.
Provincially, Kelly was named the Alberta Mid-Amateur Champion in 1996 at Rocky Mountain House, and the runner-up in the Alberta Amateur in 1982. Kelly was named the Alberta Mid-Amateur in 2009. He has represented Alberta on five provincial teams (1996, 1997, 2002, 2004 and 2009) all of which competed in the Canadian championships.
Nationally, Kelly was a member of Alberta’s Mid-Amateur Provincial Team which won its first-ever National Championship in Halifax, NS in 2002. He was also on Alberta’s Willingdon Cup Provincial team in 1997 when they lost the Canadian Team Championship by a single stroke in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Individually, Kelly was the silver medallist at the Canadian Club Champions Championship in 1999 in Prince Albert, SK and the low medalist runner-up at the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship in 2001 in Kamloops, B.C.
As an amateur in 1976, Kelly qualified for the Saskatchewan Open, a Canadian Tour event at the time. He finished the tournament in 10th place, which qualified him for the Alberta Open the following week. There, he finished in the top 10, which earned him an exemption into the B.C. Open, where he made the final cut. Seeing his accomplishments, local businessman Bill Yuill offered to sponsor Kelly on the Canadian Tour the following year. Unfortunately, the Canadian Tour disbanded for several years after a conflict with the tour sponsor and effectively ended Kelly’s professional golf aspirations.
Achieving this degree of success in golf – or any endeavor – requires self-motivation, determination, a strong work ethic and a lot of family support. Kelly attributes his motivation and resolve to his father, Lambert. He was originally a farmer in Saskatchewan, and then worked 44 years at the I-XL brick plant in Redcliff, starting as a loader operator before becoming plant foreman and eventually the superintendent. Kelly’s wife’s job as a flight attendant took her away from home for days at a time, but his mother, Rose, could always be counted on to babysit their young daughter, Kelsie, which allowed Kelly time to golf.
Long-time executive director of the Alberta Golf Association, Brent Ellenton, describes Kelly as “a respected sportsman of fine deportment, a terrific ambassador for his home club, city and province, and one of the top skilled golfers ever to come from southern Alberta. He was always well liked by his competitive peers, and considerate of officials, host-club volunteers and media members.”
Kelly is known for saying, “If you decide to do something, then do it right” and is relentless in his pursuits and accomplishes what he sets his mind to.
He may have had to ask the pretty lifeguard out seven times before she agreed to a date with him, but he and Leslie are now celebrating 35 years of marriage. Kelly says despite all of his success in golf, his wife and daughter are his greatest accomplishments.