Pint-sized canoer, Kacey Young, is not afraid to race with the big kids.
Paddling for only a year, the 12-year-old says that despite being the smallest student in her grade, an experience she had canoe racing against 16-year-olds last August helped to give her the confidence to know that she can do anything.
“I was canoeing with my friend [at an annual Festival],” recalled Young who among other sports, also competes in hockey, basketball and volleyball. “It was our first time and we didn’t really know what to do. We pushed so hard and paddled so hard that we beat all the older kids and came in first place.”
The athletic pre-teen from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation calls herself “very competitive”, and says that being teased for her height is one of the biggest challenges she has had to overcome.
“I’m called short all the time,” remarked Young. “Teasing makes people feel bad, but when people cheer for me in sports, I just get happy and I try my best.”
With a strong family background in sport, Young will be following in her mother’s footsteps this summer when she competes at the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). Young’s mother, Kim Young, is a three-time alumni of the Games, having earned two medals in canoeing and one in basketball during the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s. Young says it was her mother in large part who inspired her to become an athlete.
“The first time I decided I was going to canoe was when I watched my Mom race at the local canoe races,” said Kacey. “I still see her play a ton of sports such as volleyball, baseball, boxing and paddling. She helped me train in paddling. My mom and my Dad have been very supportive in any sport I try.”
Opaskwayak on her mother’s side and Pimicikamak through her father, the youngster says she feels a strong connection to her culture. She has been engaging in spiritual smudging rituals over the past couple of years and recently started pow wow dancing.
“Smudging helps you feel better if you had a bad day,” said Young. “Pow wow dancing is just fun.”
With five younger siblings between both of her parents, Young recognizes she has a lot of people looking up to her. Despite her age, she says she feels a strong sense of responsibility to be a role model and is excited to represent her province this summer at the Toronto 2017 NAIG.
“It feels really cool to be a part of Team Manitoba,” said Young. “I feel proud to represent my province and my community. I can’t wait. It will by my first real big experience.”