More than 400 athletes from Team Saskatchewan competed in this year’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) and the team finished as the overall champion, bringing 175 medals home to the Prairies.
Lyrik Albert from the Sweetgrass First Nation was one of the elite athletes who brought home a gold medal. The 15-year-old athlete competed in 3D archery in the 16U category, and it was her first time competing in NAIG. It was an experience that will forever be etched in her memories.
“It feels so amazing. It’s just like a feeling that you can never really describe perfectly,” she said. “It feels so rewarding after all the hard work that I’ve put into archery.”
The archery champ was inspired by her father, who is an outfitter, and she would always watch him hunt using archery. Albert’s brother is also an avid archer, so the sport runs in her family. She knew this was what she wanted to do so she worked hard to prepare herself once she was informed that she had made it onto Team Saskatchewan for NAIG 2023.
“I had to prepare mentally (and) learn how to block people out (and) how to keep myself calm in tough situations where I could get really anxious and nervous,” said Albert. “I think that really helped me a lot, especially going into the finals, shooting in front of tons of people, even being recorded live, learning how to use those mental skills as archery is a huge mental sport.”
Besides bringing home a gold medal, Albert says she enjoyed taking part in the NAIG opening ceremonies and representing her nation and her team.
“I’m proud of myself for pulling through and being brave. I also love sportsmanship,” she said. “So, not only am I proud of myself, but I’m (proud) of the other girls who competed in the competition against me…. I’m celebrating with the other girls that made it on the podium.”
The chef de mission for Team Saskatchewan said the overall experience was exciting and he is extremely proud of all the athletes in the province who played their best to their ability.
“We had a lot of athletes have some incredible showings and we did really, really well in our in a couple of different areas (and) one of those particular areas was canoe and kayak,” said Mike Tanton. “It really worked well together and put us over the top. There’s a couple of sports that always have some consistencies and (get) some medals … they needed to do. They still did their job, and everybody contributed. It just worked out for our benefit.”
Team Saskatchewan athletes brought home 51 gold, 63 silver and 61 bronze medals, which made it the overall champion for NAIG 2023.
“There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of people that came together to make this happen,” Tanton said. “When you work together as a team, you can achieve incredible things.”
In four years, the next NAIG will be held in Calgary.
Team Saskatchewan athletes given warm send off ahead of North American Indigenous Games
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