By Sam Laskaris
STURGEON LAKE CREE NATION, Alta.
WinterSpirit Goodswimmer is being rewarded once again for her athletic accomplishments from three years ago.
The Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation swimmer was one of the stars of the 2014 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) held in Regina. She captured six medals (four silver and two bronze) at those Games.
Goodswimmer will also be participating at this year’s NAIG, which will be held this July in Toronto.
Earlier this week it was announced that Goodswimmer, who is now 18, will be the flagbearer for the Alberta contingent during this year’s Games’ opening ceremonies.
Wayne Page, the assistant co-ordinator for Team Alberta, said several others were also considered for the position.
Alberta representatives were specifically looking for an individual who had considerable success at the 2014 NAIG and would also be competing in this year’s Games.
“WinterSpirit was a multiple medal winner in Regina and we thought she’d be the best fit,” Page said.
“There were four or five other athletes we had looked at as well. We will be looking to see if they will now be part of our banner ceremony.”
Besides having the one flagbearer for the opening ceremony, a number of other Alberta athletes will be chosen to carry a banner representing the province during the festivities.
Besides Page, two others were involved in the selection of Alberta’s flagbearer. They are Ted Hodgson, Alberta’s chef de mission, and Leslie Kucey, who is the team’s athletic service co-ordinator.
These three have been staging weekly meetings in Calgary in preparation of this year’s NAIG.
Goodswimmer was officially announced as Alberta’s flagbearer on Monday.
“I heard about it last week,” said Goodswimmer, a Grade 12 student at Hillside Jr/Sr High School in Valleyview, Alta.
“They asked me to be the flagbearer and I accepted. I had no idea at all about it. I was completely surprised.”
Goodswimmer said she is proud of this honour.
“It means a great deal,” she said. “It feels good people are proud of me and confident of me to do this.”
At the NAIG, swimmers are allowed to enter a maximum of eight races, six individual ones and two relay events.
Goodswimmer did compete in eight events in Regina. And she plans to do the same in Toronto.
“I hope I can win medals in all my events,” she said. “But even if I come home with one medal, that would be amazing.”
Goodswimmer’s favourite events to participate in are the 50-metre butterfly and the 50-metre freestyle.
Besides being an accomplished swimmer herself, and despite the fact she is still a teenager, Goodswimmer is also the head coach of the Valleyview Vipers swim club. She is now in her third season of serving as the club’s coach.
Goodswimmer has been with the Vipers for 10 years. When other adult coaches left the program she took over the head coaching reins at the age of 16.
“I was kind of the last resort,” she said. “If I didn’t step up we wouldn’t have the club anymore.”
The club currently has about 30 members. Goodswimmer devotes about 20 hours per week to her coaching position.
She estimates she works about 10 hours after school during weekdays. And then she spends about 10 more hours on Saturdays coaching athletes and travelling to various competitions.
Though she hasn’t completely abandoned her childhood dream, Goodswimmer is wondering whether she will ever have the opportunity to try and achieve it.
“It was a dream of mine to get to the Olympics,” she said. “Now that I’m older I see the obstacles to get there. I find it a harder goal to reach.”
Goodswimmer realizes becoming an Olympian as a swimmer would involve a massive financial commitment. She believes she would need a great amount of funding, sponsorships and the time required to train full-time.
“If I had the chance to train for the Olympics, I would,” she said.
Goodswimmer is now finishing up her high school studies. She plans to move to Edmonton in the near future. And though she might not begin classes in September, she does plan to commence her post-secondary schooling soon.
Goodswimmer is leaning towards attending Edmonton’s MacEwan University. That school does not have a swim team.
Since she is keen to continue her swim career while at university, Goodswimmer said she’ll have to consider whether to join a club team in Edmonton or perhaps attend the University of Alberta, which does have a swim squad.
“But I plan on coming back every summer to swim for and coach the Valleyview team,” she said.