Wednesday, 02 August 2017 14:13

Maple Creek athlete wins gold at North American Indigenous Games

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Team Saskatchewan's 4x100 metre relay team, with Sarah Watson at left, celebrate their gold medals after winning the 4x100 metre relay at the North American Indigenous Games, July 20. Behind them are the silver medallists from Alberta and the bronze medallists from Wisconsin. Team Saskatchewan's 4x100 metre relay team, with Sarah Watson at left, celebrate their gold medals after winning the 4x100 metre relay at the North American Indigenous Games, July 20. Behind them are the silver medallists from Alberta and the bronze medallists from Wisconsin. Photo contributed

A southwest Saskatchewan athlete won two gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).


Seventeen-year-old Sarah Watson of Maple Creek competed with Team Saskatchewan at the 2017 NAIG, which took place in Toronto from July 16-23.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I would go back anytime, but I’ll be too old next time. ... I’m hoping to go back as a coach though, if I can.”
The NAIG is a multi-sport, multi-disciplinary event for Indigenous youth from Canada and the United States between the ages of 13 and 19. Athletes competed in 14 different sports and the event includes a cultural program to showcase indigenous cultural artists and performers from across North America.
Watson competed in five different events for U19 females at the games — triple jump, high jump, long jump, 100-metre sprint, and 4x100 metre relay. She usually focuses on triple jump, her favourite event, and high jump, but she also qualified for the other events at the provincial team tryouts last September.
Her track and field season in the run-up to the games was not very successful due to an injury earlier this year.
“Before the season started I tore a tendon in my foot playing volleyball,” she said. “So the season wasn’t too great. I missed the first month of training and once I got back into it, I wasn’t really doing my best.”
Her main concern before the start of the games was that her old injury might become a problem again.
“I was worried that my injury might re-occur, but it didn’t,” she said. “That was the only thing I was worried about.”
Watson received her first medal July 19 when she finished third in the high jump. She reached a height of 1.35 metres, only five centimetres less than the second place athlete.
“It’s an OK jump,” she said about her result. “I can usually jump about 10 centimetres higher than that, but I was happy with it.”
Late afternoon on July 20 she received her first gold medal when she achieved a distance of 9.95 metres in the triple jump. Her jump was well ahead of the silver medallist’s distance of 9.48 metres.
“My personal best is 10.42 (metres),” she said. “I thought I could do better, but I was still happy with it. I think it was just the fact that I normally train for four months for track and field, and I only got like two months put in because of the injury. ... That’s a pretty good jump compared to what I was doing during the school season.”
That evening she was a member of the Team Saskatchewan 4x100 metre relay team, which won gold with a time of 54.32 seconds.
“That’s a pretty good run and the way I ran in the relay, it felt different from how I ran in the 100,” she recalled. “It felt more natural in the relay.”
She ran the second leg in the relay.
She was included in the relay team as one of two 100-metre sprinters in the Saskatchewan team, but she does not compete frequently in the relay.
“I didn’t do it at all this year,” she said. “I did it once, I think, but I didn’t do it for the really competitive track meet.”
Her trip to the games was a memorable experience, also because it was her first visit to Toronto.
“Our track and field team went to Canada’s Wonderland for a day and we toured around Toronto for a day,” she said.
The track and field athletes stayed on the York University campus and their events took place at York Lions Stadium on the campus.
“Right beside the track were our dorms and then on the other side was the athletes village, which was just a place to hang out and there’s stores and stuff,” she said. “There was a hall where we could eat and there was always food for us.”
The games was a great opportunity to meet other Indigenous youth from across North America.
“I loved it,” she said. “I made friends from Wisconsin. I’m a really talkative person, so I made lots of new friends.”
Watson is also a competitive volleyball player and she plays for the U18 Junior SunDogs volleyball team in Swift Current. Due to her volleyball commitments she stays half of the year in Swift Current.
“Volleyball I just always loved and my auntie played college volleyball,” she said. “That’s just been a dream of mine, and now that I’m starting to get more competitive on track, I’m kind of leaning towards maybe that in college too.”
She plans to attend a college in the United States and she will continue to compete as an athlete. Afterwards she wants to do coaching and she hopes to return to the NAIG in the future as a coach.
Team Saskatchewan finished second overall at the 2017 NAIG with 166 medals, including 65 gold medals. The team also finished second overall at the previous games, which took place in Regina in 2014.

Read 1085 times Last modified on Wednesday, 02 August 2017 14:16
Matthew Liebenberg

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