Among the sounds of the gentle splashing in a public pool, comes the chatter of a small but excited crowd: it’s the Yukon swim team for the North American Indigenous Games — made up of just seven athletes — trying on their new swimsuits for this year’s competition.
Next month, they’ll be joining other Indigenous athletes from across the continent for the Games in Toronto. This year, Yukon is sending more than 150 athletes to the competition, participating in almost all of the 14 sports.
This will be the first time at NAIG for almost all of Yukon’s swim team — and the first time at any swim meet for some of the team members.
Coach Shereen Hill, from the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation, says that’s one of the best parts of NAIG: athletes who’ve been to national championships can share the pool with those attending their very first meet.
‘NAIG is so much more’
This will be the first lane-swim meet for Helene Maguire, from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation. She’s normally a synchronized swimmer, as is her brother Cameron, who is also on the team.
“I know we’re going to be a really small team,” said Maguire. “I’m pretty excited.”
For coach Hill, the size of the team doesn’t faze her.
“We’re a small team, but we’ve got a lot of power.”
‘We’re a small team, but we’ve got a lot of power.’
– Shereen Hill, coach
Cassis Lindsay, from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, has competed at the Western Canada Games, but this is her first time participating in NAIG.
Her sister Rennes, recipient of the Yukon’s 2017 Aboriginal athlete of the year award, is also on the team.
“Westerns is just a swim meet… NAIG is so much more,” said Lindsay. “It’s going to be more exciting. It’s going to be educational. You’re going to learn things about First Nations culture in Canada that you didn’t know before.”
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