Indigenous athlete brings home the gold

Breeann Pagee didn’t expect much going into the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto. But despite having no experience competing in an international athletic contest, the 14-year-old walked away from the games with a gold medal in the 14U female high jump event.

“It just came out of nowhere,” said Breeann, who previously thought her best shot at placing in the competition was with a track event like the 800 metres or the 4x400-metre relay.

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“We were all surprised,” said Warren Pagee, Breeann’s father. “Her first event was the 1,200 metre and she suffered from heat exhaustion. The next day was her high jump and it was a great comeback.”

Breeann’s winning performance helped contribute to team Manitoba’s overall medal count of 55, which propelled them into seventh place overall.

Although this former Westwood School student has been competing in track and field since Grade 5, she’s also known as an all-around athlete, participating in sports like badminton, baseball and basketball.

In fact, it was her performance playing with the Westwood Vikings basketball team that caught the attention of the local Knights of Columbus who, along with Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and others, helped sponsor her trip to Toronto in mid-July.

Warren said that his daughter’s journey is even more miraculous given the fact that, up until three years ago, she lived in the small, northern community of Pikwitonei that provided very few opportunities to showcase her athletic abilities.

“She grew up in Pikwitonei where there’s only eight or nine students on a good day and less than 40–50 people there, population-wise,” said Warren. “There wasn’t much to offer other than going out for Frontier Games … so she’s come a long way since moving to Thompson.”

While Breeann is already thinking about entering the 2020 North American Indigenous Games, right now she’s set her sights on a more pressing matter: entering her first year of athletics at R.D. Parker Collegiate in the fall.

“She’s like a little firecracker. Once she gets into something she won’t give it up until it’s done, win or lose,” said Warren. “It’s not more or less the winning part, she just loves competing and playing with her friends.” 

For a full list of the medal winners from the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, please visit www.naig2017.to.

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