By the end of January, fitness resolutions begin to wither but for one couple there’s no such thing as a rest day.
Davit and Kirsten Dzavashvili are known for boxing and their intense training sessions on the North Coast, but the couple’s origin story is less familiar — how their insatiable thirst for fitness drew them to each other from opposite ends of the world.
As a young boy in the Republic of Georgia, Davit’s father kept a map of the world in their home. He would tell his son that it was his dream to go to Canada one day.
Growing up in Georgia was tough. In 1991, the Soviet Union had collapsed and internal conflict ensued. His family had no electricity and no running water, aside from ice they would melt to wash their faces in the morning. Despite their hardships, Davit engaged in sport, playing soccer until he was 12 years old when he started boxing.
In a few years, he was an amateur fighter in Georgia. At 17 years of age, he moved to Spain to fight professionally. When he was 21, he wavered between immigrating to Canada or Australia, but his father had planted the seed early on.
“He flew into Toronto and kept going to Vancouver. He had no English, no job, $500 in his pocket and he went to the police to claim refugee status,” Kirsten said, telling her husband’s story while he was busy training a client in their new gym.
He was taken to the Covenant House, a home for at-risk youth. Davit continued with his boxing, and was spotted by someone who introduced him to Sugar Ray’s boxing. The coach at the gym almost immediately took Davit into his world, and offered him room and board if he’d train for him.
Now, we’re right up to the point where Kirsten meets Davit. Let’s take a step back to find out how she ended up in the same boxing gym.
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Kirsten Eby, as she was known then, was heavily involved in swimming. Her father had once been one of the top 10 swimmers in the world and she was active in the swim club.
The 100 metres and 200 metres backstroke was her specialty and from ages 9 until 14 years of age she was number one in Canada. She qualified for the Olympic trials in 1992, but her parents said she was too young to go.
“I held the provincial record until a few years ago. I held it for about 25 years,” she said, with an air of competitiveness.
But then, like many swimmers, she acquired a shoulder injury. Although her career in the pool ended, she continued to explore other activities. At 17, she moved to Vancouver to study at the University of British Columbia where she was on the recreational rowing team and the varsity rugby team. Kirsten travelled to Chile for a year to teach English as a second language, and then moved back to Vancouver to get her bachelor’s degree in education, which led to her teaching for the Vancouver school board.
In 2011, Kirsten walked into the Sugar Ray’s boxing gym and Davit was the coach.
“I always wanted to try it and I really like to pursue sports that are intense. You can just throw yourself into everything,” Kirsten said.
She trained four or five times a week and soon the two started dating.
“We dated for six months, got engaged, got married — two months later he got deported,” she said.
Their immigration sponsorship applications were rejected, and despite being married, Davit was told to leave. Together, they flew back to the Republic of Georgia. It was the first time Kirsten had been to Europe.
Canadian immigration officials had told the couple it may take up to five years for Davit to be allowed to live in Canada. In the meantime, they lived with his parents, started an English services business and Davit began to training clients.
Seven months later, immigration officials gave them their window to return to Canada. They flew back, legally, and this time to Prince Rupert, since they had nothing left in Vancouver.
Not long after, they began running boxing classes and in three years they’ve opened their own space – Red Shadow Boxing and Lifestyle Fitness — where they both work full time and offer conditioning classes, personal training, as well as boxing.
“It’s all about that feeling that you get when you’re fired up and you accomplish something. That is what binds Davit and I. That comes from sport,” she said.
Their family has grown too.
Vivianna, their 18-month-old girl, comes into the gym and throws her hands up in the air when Mom says squats. Davit’s parents have also joined them in Prince Rupert — his father’s dream had come true. This past December, they were accepted in Canada on a 10-year super visa, and now they’re working on their English skills.
What does the fitness power couple recommend for those faltering resolutioners?
Use your body everyday, and surround yourself with active people, and maybe one will turn out to be the love of your life.