Team Yukon was one short of an even dozen at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games last week.
Yukon athletes collected 11 medals at the multi-sport event that finished Sunday in Regina, Sask.
The 11 medals put Yukon 12th out of 20 contingents from Canada and the U.S. at the Games, which saw 5,000 athletes compete in 15 sports.
Yukon sent a team of 78, including 44 athletes, to the Games. That’s down from the 130 sent to the 2008 Games, when Yukon won a record 49 medals.
“This is one of the smallest teams we’ve taken,” said Yukon Chef de Mission Charly Kelly. “Interest has waned. We have a lot of Games we’re going to – Arctic Winter Games fell between trying to make this team.”
Yukon won four gold medals in Regina, three of which came in a sport the territory was competing in for the first time.
Three Yukon paddlers won gold medals in tandem canoe racing.
“I’m very happy with the results,” said Yukon canoe coach Dan Girouard. “We’ve been training since the end of April … We didn’t know what to expect because we haven’t competed as a group together. Through training and some local races here and there, the kids were ready for the competition and did very well.”
Yukon’s Jacy Sam helped win all three paddling golds. She teamed up with William Connellan to win the 1,000- and 6,000-metre in mixed U19, and with Alice Frost-Hanberg to take gold in the 3,000-metre for U19 females. Sam and Frost-Hanberg also paddled to silver in the 6,000-metre and bronze in the 1,000-metre.
“I knew Jacy, Will and Alice had something going for them because they have that competitive drive,” said Girouard. “So do the others, but you could tell they picked up the sport easier than the others.
“The level of competition was better than I expected and being at a world class facility in Regina was great for the kids too. It gave them a good perspective of what sprint racing is and it gave them a taste of the paddling world. They want to keep going and compete at the Western Canada Games next summer.”
Yukon’s other gold came in archery. Teslin’s Destiny Taylor, 15, shot 474 out of 500 for gold in the traditional recurve competition for U19 females.
“She’s been practicing in Teslin with Sam Johnston; Sam is a very strong advocate for archery,” said Yukon archery coach Les Johns.
Yukon’s next top finishing archer was 12-year-old Kate Hannah of Whitehorse with a fifth place result for recurve in the U16 females.
“She just turned 12,” said Johns. “When we advertised for these (Games), we didn’t get a very big response. We didn’t get anyone from the Whitehorse Archery Club to try out, we got people from the communities. Kate was the only one in the archery club that tried out.”
Whitehorse’s Jaylene Kelly sped to two silver in Regina. The 17-year-old member of Yukon’s athletics team took silver in the 400-metre and the six-kilometre cross-country race in the U19 female division.
“These Games are just really unique because of the cultural (aspects),” said Jaylene. “There were these huge teepees lined up in a row. At the opening ceremonies they had First Nation dancers and it was really amazing.”
Jaylene, who was competing in her first Indigenous Games, also placed fourth in the 100- and 200-metre races.
Teammate Dana Sellars pocketed a bronze in the 800-metre for U14 females. Sellars also went the distance and placed fourth in the two-kilometre cross-country race.
Yukon’s rifle shooters were on aim at the Games, collecting more top-five finishes than any other Yukon squad, with nine.
“They did very well,” said Yukon shooting coach Gordon Reed. “We didn’t train as long as some of the other teams. The people we were competing against … were training for three years. We started our training early this year and I think we did really well in spite of that.
“If you look at the fact that we were in the top 10 for all our competitors, we did very well. The fact that we got some medals is even better.”
Of the top-five positions, two resulted in bronze medals. Yukon’s Shadunjen Maria Bernadette van Kampen shot to third in the prone and in the overall for U19 females in the 50-metre, .22 caliber competition. The 16-year-old was edged out of a third bronze with a fourth place finish in the three-position shooting competition.
Rifle teammate Cordell Duke Jules of Teslin placed fourth in the three-position and overall in U16 males and took fifth in prone.
Yukon’s Jessa Klugie, Aleshia Kremer and Chris Fairclough all shot to fifth place results in their respective divisions.
Yukon sent a softball team to the Games for the first time but failed to grab a win and placed in the bottom spot in the U19 competition. The Yukon fast-pitch team took four straight losses, the closest being 20-13 to Team Eastern Door and the North of Quebec.
Yukon’s U19 female volleyball team opened the tournament with a pair of tight losses, dropping three-setters to Team Newfoundland and Labrador and Team Alberta. They then picked up a win through default by Florida before three more losses in
a second round-robin pool eliminated Yukon.
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