Apollo Hess exploded out of the pool in his rookie year as a University of Lethbridge Pronghorn, grabbing the attention of the swimming community. 

A member of Kainai Nation, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy in southern Alberta, Apollo is in his second year at the University of Lethbridge where he’s working toward a Bachelor of Management degree and collecting medals as a member of the school’s swim team, the Pronghorns.

During his rookie year, Apollo earned several gold and silver medals, while also setting the Canadian university record for fastest time in the 50-metre breaststroke during the U Sports Championships in Quebec City. This stunning performance, combined with his strong posted times throughout the year, led to Apollo being named both Men’s Swimmer of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the Canada West conference.

Apollo credits much of his success to the teachings of his grandfather: “My grandfather was the one who helped connect me to my Indigenous roots and set me on my journey. He was a professional boxer in his youth and would have me over to paint my face and tell me stories of his time on the boxing circuit.” 

Those stories stuck with Apollo and he uses his grandfather’s teachings to handle pressure, train hard and never forget where he came from as he continues his journey as a competitive swimmer.

Last year, Apollo was selected as a 2022 Petro-Canada ™ Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence (FACE) ™ recipient.

Through the FACE program, Apollo receives funding that allows him to focus on his training and to purchase healthy food and recovery equipment so he can get back in the pool faster.

A young man standing by an indoor pool. He is swearing a light blue swimsuit and looking at the camera.
In 2022, Apollo was selected as a Petro-Canada ™ FACE™ recipient.

Key to being selected for the FACE program is the relationship with his coach, Peter Schori. “My coach is like a father figure to me,” says Apollo. “He is always predicting the next award, the next milestone for me. I’ve been working with him for almost 10 years, and he hasn’t missed a prediction yet.” 

Apollo’s fast laps have earned him a lot of attention in 2022. He promises to be an exciting force to watch this season as he continues to work on his swimming goals, which include making it to the Olympics one day. “There’s no way to pay my mom back for the sacrifices she made to fuel my career in swimming,” says Apollo. “I see my success as the only way to pay her back for all the time, money and effort she put into my swimming as a kid. “For me, I see my ultimate dream of qualifying for the Olympics as the way to repay her.” 

Apollo says if he could give one piece of advice to an Indigenous athlete on the rise, it’s to always stand proud. “Keep your head held high,” he says. “Your Indigenous heritage is what makes you strong. Never be ashamed of it and draw on that strength when you compete.”

Apollo’s story, and that of many more inspiring Indigenous People from northern Alberta to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and places in between, can be found in the 2022 edition of Pathways magazine. Visit our Pathways Magazine page to read more.