Over 400 athletes for Team Saskatchewan are preparing to leave the Prairies for the Maritimes, competing in this year’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax.
After six years, thousands of Indigenous athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators are gathering from across Canada and the United States to play in sporting events and represent their nations.
Thirteen-year-old athlete Julianna Reimer-Marion of Regina will get a taste of her first experience competing in the kayaking sport.
“I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of new people and seeing other like athletes and how they do in kayaking,” said Reimer-Marion. “I think I’m really excited to see, you know, like what others the skills that the others have.”
When she received the news last year that she was picked to represent her province for kayaking, she dedicated each day to train and perfect her skill.
“I practice like three times a week. I go to this gym called OPEX Fitness Regina … at least like 3 to 4 times a week just to like workout,” she said. “I used to (practice at Wascana Lake) six times a week during the school year. (But) during the summer, I do it five times.”
Her mind is not set on winning first place but she aims to receive a NAIG medal at the very least.
“The designs on them are really cool and I think it’d be really cool to go home with like a medal from NAIG,” said Reimer-Marion. “So, I am kind of aiming for that top spot, top three, maybe even fourth.”
Seeing the dedication and excitement from athletes like Reimer-Marion is something that drives Mike Tanton to do the job he does for Team Saskatchewan as the chef de mission. On Thursday, Team Saskatchewan will host a pep rally in Whitecap Dakota Nation to send off the athletes in a positive way.
“I’m just happy that our young people are going to get to experience that. I know a lot of our young people are struggling with a little bit of anxiety as none of them have been to the games before,” he said. “I think seeing that level of support from our community back home is going to help with alleviating a little bit of that anxiety and sending them off on such a strong and powerful positive note that I hope carries them through until the end of the end of the competition.”
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This will be Tanton’s final year as Team Saskatchewan’s chef de mission. Ever since he was a kid, he always attended NAIG, first as a spectator, then athlete and coach.
“It’s really exciting. And I just I’m looking forward to experience in these games where it’s been a long time in the waiting,” he said.
The NAIG opening ceremonies kick off on Sunday with the games following the next day. Folks to watch the live stream on the NAIG 2023 website.
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