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Team N.W.T. walks into the 2014 North American Games in Regina. The team finished the games with 51 medals, good for 6th place overall. ( Sport Circle NWT) The 2017 North American Indigenous Games begin July 16, 2017, and CBC North will be on the ground in Toronto, covering athletes from the 3 territories through the competition. Before the opening ceremonies begin, CBC North will profile each territory’s contingent.

After a strong performance at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games that saw it win over 50 medals, Team Northwest Territories is looking to its smaller communities for a repeat performance in 2017.

"There is a lot of community representation," said Shawna McLeod, Team N.W.T.’s chef de mission. "I’m really proud of it, because that’s what we strive to do, is get the athletes out of the communities." Fort Resolution’s Breanna Mandeville leaps over the high jump bar at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games. Mandeville finished the games with two medals. A number of athletes will come to Team N.W.T. from Fort Resolution, and the athletics team is expected to be strong once again. (Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT) This year, 16 communities will send representatives to Toronto, including two communities — Wekweeti and Fort Liard — that didn’t have representatives at the last games.

Some of the athletes, including members of the volleyball and athletics teams, will be using the tournament to help them prepare for the upcoming Canada Summer Games. Others, including swimming and rifle shooting, are primarily made up of younger representatives.

However, no matter the experience level, McLeod hopes each athlete is able to take something away from their experience.

"All of them are going to have their highs and lows through the competition," she said.

"Hopefully they gain something rewarding, something that’s rewarding to them," she said. "Whether it’s friendships, or taking home medals, or learning about culture, or learning something about themselves. By the numbers

Contingent: Size: 225 (includes athletes, coaches, managers, chaperones, cultural contingent, mission staff, VIPs)

Sports: archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, canoe, golf, rifle shooting, swimming, volleyball

Medal history: Regina 2014: seven gold, 17 silver, 27 bronze, 51 total (6th overall)

Cowichan 2008: two gold, four silver, four bronze, 10 total (8th overall)

Total since 1990: 54 gold, 67 silver, 90 bronze, 209 total (8th overall)

Athletes to watch

Darius Andre and Mackenzie McDonald celebrate after winning a gold medal at the 2014 NAIG. Andre, from Tsiigehtchic, and McDonald, from Inuvik, will carry out Team N.W.T.’s flag and placard at the opening ceremonies and are expected to be standouts once again. (Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT) In 2014, the N.W.T.’s canoe team was one of the surprises of the Games, coming out of nowhere to win four gold and two silver medals. They won’t have the element of surprise this time around, but McLeod believes that a repeat performance may be in the cards.

"They kicked butt over there," she said of the 2014 team. "It’s almost the same group that is going."

Based in Inuvik, Team N.W.T.’s canoe squad is led by Tsiigehtchic’s Darius Andre and Inuvik’s Mackenzie McDonald. In 2014, the pair combined to win a tandem gold medal, one of four for Andre (McDonald finished with one gold and two silver).This year, they’ll lead the territory at the opening ceremonies, carrying the flag and team placard.McLeod also pointed out the archery and basketball teams as potential medal hopefuls. The territory’s athletics team is always strong — in 2014, they were responsible for 27 of the team’s 51 medals — and with a number of athletes using NAIG as a springboard to this summer’s Canada Summer Games, […]

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