Taryn McKenzie Relishes NAIG Experience
"I first got the news at the tryouts and I didn't think I was going to make it. It was kind of surreal that I made it."
For Taryn McKenzie, getting the chance to represent Saskatchewan on home soil was incredible.
McKenzie was a member of Team Saskatchewan at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) from July 20-27, 2014. It was only the second time the event had been held in Saskatchewan and the first time it occurred in the Queen City.
"It was awesome," McKenzie said. "I met a lot of good people and I love the competitions."
For McKenzie, much like the 400 other athletes competing for Team Saskatchewan, it was a moment she had spent years preparing for. To make Team Saskatchewan, athletes have to undergo an intense talent identification program involving the provincial sport governing bodies and Aboriginal sport coordinators chosen by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Starting in 2012, Talent ID Sessions where held in various districts to determine the team members, usually involving competitions or other skills events to evaluate an individual's skill levels. After these sessions were completed, the team members for each sport were selected. It's a similar process to how members are chosen for Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Games.
McKenzie said she trained by running three kilometres a day around the tracks near her home. The only thing that would stop here was when there were bears in the area. This dedication led to her being selected.
"I first got the news at the tryouts and I didn't think I was going to make it," McKenzie said in a media interview. "It was kind of surreal that I made it."
At the games, McKenzie won five gold medals in athletics. Saskatchewan had a fantastic showing in general. The team won 72 gold medals, 54 silver and 33 bronze, for a grand total of 159.
McKenzie feels her story can be an inspiration for future kids looking to earn a spot on Team Saskatchewan. All athletes who earn a coveted spot on Team Saskatchewan, just like McKenzie, encourage the next generation of athletes to strive toward that goal, because the benefits of being on Team Saskatchewan are endless.
"You could be like me and think you're not going to make Team Saskatchewan," McKenzie said. "But you could end up getting gold. Just try your hardest and never give up."
• North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) - Regina