Keely Dyment was looking forward to competing with the continent’s best young Indigenous athletes this summer.
Now she will have to wait another year.
The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) 2020 council and host society announced Wednesday it had to postpone the multi-sport event for a year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain).
“I was really sad,” Dyment said Thursday.
But the 17-year-old Lennox Island badminton player was pleased to know all athletes who were to participate at the July 12-18 Games in Nova Scotia will get to compete in 2021.
“My partner would be too old to go if it was in three years’ (time),” Dyment said of Nikeda Sark.
Lynn Anne Hogan feels for the team members.
“It’s very emotional, but at the same time this is an exciting opportunity because our team has already been selected, so now we’re going to have a whole year to really jell and really truly become a team,” said the Team P.E.I. chef de mission, who also serves as the secretary on the NAIG council.
She said the athletes and coaches were well-prepared for the summer competition, and the extra year will allow them to continue to improve as they grow in their sport.
“These kids are going to be ready,” she said. “They take training very seriously.”
The Mi'Kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.’s Aboriginal Sports Circle takes the lead in preparing the Island squad for NAIG. In 2018, it created the Road to NAIG 2020, which included various identification camps and clinics and events where athletes could try specific sports.
Teams had their final tryouts in advance of Christmas before selecting their rosters.
Dyment attended the 2017 NAIG in Toronto and said a lot of preparation goes into getting ready for the competition. But the training has now been interrupted due to the spread of coronavirus.
“Every week since Toronto, we’ve been practisting every Wednesday with kids in the community. Now we’ve gone to no practice at all,” she said. “It’s weird because it’s something to look forward to every week, and then it’s just gone.”
Hogan said while sport is a big component of the weeklong NAIG, it isn’t the only element.
“It’s so much bigger than just the games,” she said. “It brings together cultures from all over North America.”
Dyment said she was most looking forward to “meeting new people and learning about other people’s cultures.”
Hogan has not been to NAIG before, but she has heard from previous athletes who are still in touch with athletes they met at previous Games.
“The friendships that are made are going to last forever, which is awesome,” Hogan said.