While being a veteran volunteer in the Aboriginal Sports Circle, Wayne Anderson was blown away by the magnitude of the 2002 North American Indigenous Games in Winnipeg last week.
And this was two days after the closing ceremonies on Sunday.
“‘Awesome’ is the only word—from the opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies,” said Anderson yesterday on the event that saw over 6,000 athletes, representing all 10 provinces in Canada and the 50 U.S. states, compete.
“For the athletes in this neighbourhood, this is the highest amount we’ve had. That’s a great positive,” he added, referring to the 13 competitors from this district who went there.
Team Ontario came in fourth-place for medals won overall, with 1,112. Manitoba was first with 3,133. The games had begun on July 24.
Ten of the 13 district athletes competed on the volleyball courts. Cullen McGinnis (Nicickousemenecaning) was on the gold medal-winning juvenile men’s team that beat Team Saskatchewan, two sets to one, in the gold medal final. McGinnis was a member of both the Muskie senior volleyball and basketball teams this winter.
The Juvenile Women’s team had four district connections—players Kelly and Shannon Kabatay and Carmen Jones, and assistant coach Sherri Oshawee. But they came away empty-handed after being eliminated in the semi-final by Team Alberta. They had finished 8-2 in round-robin play.
Kelly Kabatay, a regular with the Muskie senior girls’ team, said the level of competition faced was a great experience.
“I liked playing and just meeting new people,” said Kabatay, whose cousin Shannon, was a player on the junior Muskies this past winter. “[The team] only met once a couple weeks before the Games actually happened.
“As soon as we got together, we found we clicked right away and played pretty good,” she added.
Oshawee also played on the senior women’s volleyball team that reached the quarter-finals.
Rachel Katabay of Seine River First Nation was joined by Shawna Jones and Trisha Allen, both of Nicickousemenecaning, as members of Team Ontario’s Midget girls volleyball team and beat Manitoba in the bronze medal final.
Ryan Jack played on the junior men’s squad that lost to Alberta, two sets to one, in their bronze medal final.
On the diamonds, Brad Comegan (Big Grassy) and his senior men’s baseball team, coached by his father, Doug, won the gold medal in a 10-inning thriller against Manitoba.
Sheri Tuesday, also of Big Grassy, led her senior women’s basketball team to the bronze medal game before losing 68-57 to North Dakota.
Meanwhile, Master’s golfer Jim Green of Shoal Lake, the closest qualifier at an NAIG playdowns held at Kitchen Creek last year, carded a three-round 240 at Larter’s Golf Course, 14 shots back of a gold medal.
And Big Grassy’s Shalon Adams competed in three canoeing events—the 1,000m and 3,000m senior women’s doubles and 3,000m mixed senior doubles events—but did not figure onto the podium.
Regardless of finishes, Anderson said the NAIG were a success on all fronts.
“Overall, it was great. I saw a lot of different sports and there were all really well attended,” he said.