Sisters Kristen and Kayley Clair have returned from the North American Indigenous games with medals in hand.
“It was a pretty good experience,” said 15-year-old Kristen, who brought home three bronze medals.
She won her place on the podium for the 100m, 200m and 4 by 100m relay.
Her sister, 14-year-old Kayley, also brought home a bronze medal for the 4 by 100 metre relay.
The girls had trained for six months with the help of their P.E. teacher Mike Cleary prior to heading to Toronto to participate in the International competition.
The 2017 NAIG hosted over 5,000 athletes and coaches from all over North America. Team B.C. had 28 teams competing in 13 different sports, which included 419 athletes and 105 coaching staff.
“We got to meet a lot of new people,” said Kayley. They met athletes from across the country, trading Team BC pins for pins from other provinces.
The Clairs also participated in the opening ceremonies, walking into the arena together with Team BC.
“We weren’t nervous because everyone was with us,” said Kristen.
Kayley added it was “more exciting than anything.”
The girls had a few days of downtime between the opening ceremonies and their first events. “We had friends that competed before us so we went to cheer them on,” said Kristen. “And the nerves didn’t start kicking in until the night before.”
While the girls said stepping onto the podium was definitely one of their most memorable moments, they learned a lot from their experiences at the games.
“We learned about so many different cultures,” said Kristen. “And we learned about Team 88 which helped bring everyone together.”
#Team88 was a campaign introduced by the NAIG to help promote the positive impacts of sports and wellness within Indigenous communities.
The 88 stand for Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action #88 which asks all levels of government to ensure long-term Indigenous athlete development and growth.
Kristen said representing her culture on a national stage made her feel very proud. “Even to know everyone was watching on the live-stream, so even if they weren’t there – they were with you.”
Kristen and Kayley’s parents, Jim and Angela Clair, watched the live stream, which was broadcast through CBC, as much as possible. “I think I was screaming at the TV,” said Jim.
The girls will attend a special dinner in their honour hosted by Quatsino First Nation. Five of the six North Island athletes that participated in the NAIG were of Quatsino heritage.
“We are very lucky to have all the support we did,” said Kristen, adding “everyone was so supportive and happy to see us and we got to show them all of our medals.”