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St. Albert paddlers make waves at North American Indigenous Games

From July 15-23, Halifax, Dartmouth, and the Millbrook First Nation will buzz with the spirit of competition, as the communities host the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).
(Left to right) Katelyn Rosendahl (17), Daniel Malysh (14), Coach Dillan Evancusky, William Horne (17) and Colton Greyeyes (17) of the St. Albert Canoe and Kayak Club wear Team Alberta apparel at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games. ST. ALBERT CANOE AND KAYAK CLUB/ Supplied

From July 15-23, Halifax, Dartmouth, and the Millbrook First Nation will buzz with the spirit of competition, as the communities host the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). The event brings together athletes from across Canada and the United States to compete and connect. This year, the games will welcome athletes from 756 Indigenous nations for a grand celebration of sport and culture.

Among them, four bright talents from the St. Albert Canoe and Kayak Club have earned a spot on this stage: Colton Greyeyes, William Horne, Katelyn Rosendahl, and Daniel Malysh will don Team Alberta’s colours in Halifax (Kjipuktuk). The journey of these athletes to NAIG speaks volumes about their dedication and the profound impact of sports in bringing communities together.

Ohannah Chama, the media representative for the St. Albert Canoe and Kayak Club, said the athletes have made huge strides since joining the organization.

"They're all relatively new to us, with time varying from a few months to a year and a bit, but they have all made excellent additions to our club, and we are so happy to have them representing us," Chama said.

The four will compete in several events during the Games. From solo races in both the canoe (MC1) and kayak (K1), to dual races in two-person canoes, they'll showcase their prowess on the water over various distances. They have undergone rigorous training and a challenging qualification process to prepare.

"These athletes have been training very hard to prepare for their races at NAIG. This included many practices, drills, and workouts," Chama said.

Their resilience is especially apparent in the case of Malysh, the youngest competitor from the club. Malysh, who graduated from the summer camp program to the bantam team, "trains year-round and will be competing in many competitions this year, both local and provincial," Chama said.

The athletes aren't just teammates, but also members of a strong, supportive community.

"It is extremely valuable that these teammates will have each other and [coach] Dillan [Evancusky] for support throughout this competition,” Chama said. “The St. Albert Canoe and Kayak Club has built a very tight-knit and encouraging community of athletes who truly want to see each other succeed."

The club’s head coach, Zak Mahmoudi, is enthusiastic about being represented by Greyeyes, Horne, Rosendahl and Malysh at the Games.

"The St. Albert Canoe and Kayak Club has always been committed to supporting Indigenous paddling through local programs and participation in competitions,” Mahmoudi said. “Canoeing and kayaking represent unique opportunities for Indigenous paddlers to access local, regional, and national competitions.”

It’s a feeling echoed by Evancusky, who travelled to the Maritimes with the team.

“I am unbelievably proud of all of our athletes participating in the North American Indigenous Games,” Evancusky said. “They have all demonstrated commitment to the sport through their attendance and determination during practices, and have put a lot of work into preparing for their races.”

“I am very happy to be someone these athletes can depend on for support and encouragement and am very excited to watch them compete in the coming days,” the athlete-turned-coach said. 

The four paddlers take more than just their canoes and kayaks to the waters of the East Coast. They also carry a solid foundation built on hard work, the vibrancy of their culture, and the support of their community. 

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