Reila Bird, left, and daughter Juleah Duesing, right, have each starred at the North American #Indigenous Games. (Courtesy Reila Bird) When Juleah Duesing was in Grade 2 she wrote a poem for a Mother’s Day project.
At the end of the poem were the words: "I want to win as many trophies as my mom did."
Reila Bird is Juleah’s mom. She attended the first-ever North American Indigenous Games as a spectator in 1990, watching her sister compete in volleyball. Bird admits she didn’t know much about the Games until arriving in Edmonton that year and was awe-struck by the experience.
"I was 13 and had an #Aboriginal father who had little connection back to the #First Nation," said Bird. "I was always told I was Aboriginal. But I didn’t experience cultural traditions and I didn’t have a cultural lifestyle."
But the Games ignited a desire to not only learn more about her culture, but to get back to there and compete as an athlete.
Bird got a late start to her athletic career, but her natural sprinting abilities made her a standout early on. By Grade 9 she had entered the club scene in Regina and also qualified for Team Saskatchewan heading to NAIG in 1993.
"I didn’t think I would be successful at all because these were North American Indigenous Games. I was told that everybody from the United States and eastern Canada were really good and I was just from Regina, Saskatchewan," Bird said.
But she soared past the competition in every race she ran in front of a hometown crowd in Prince Albert, Sask. In fact, Bird won gold in every race she ran; the 100 metres, 200, 400 and 4×100 relay.
"I think the most exciting part was being on the podium for the first time and having that gold medal. It was very humbling because I didn’t think I would win a race. And my family was there," she said.
Two years later in Minnesota, Bird went back to NAIG with a wealth of experience and confidence. She followed up her golden Games in Prince Albert by repeating that performance.
However, the 4×100 first-place finish would be the last race she’d ever run.
"I had struggled the whole time with stress fractures because I was training at a long distance track club," recalled Bird. "After the last race I ran I had to go to the hospital and that pretty much ended my track and field days." Though she had a late start in her athletic career, there was no stopping Bird once she began competing. (Courtesy Reila Bird ) Daughter shows same natural talent as mom
Bird’s premature end to her athletic career is still something she thinks about today. She had plans of attending the University of Saskatchewan to compete with the Huskies track team.
But she found a way to reconnect with a sport she loved when her daughter was born.
Unlike her mother’s late start, Duesing showed signs of being a great runner early on in elementary school. By Grade 3 she was sprinting ahead of her classmates and other students during track meets. By Grade 4 Duesing was in a track club and being coached by her mom. Duesing, front, is only four medals from tying her mother’s mark at the North American Indigenous Games. (Courtesy Reila Bird) "She was taking me all over the province for track meets," Duesing said. "But at the time I was just going to do it because I wanted to do it and was having fun."
For the next few years she trained hard, her mom right there every step of the way. All this was […]
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