Sports

Chilliwack athlete to make Indigenous Games history

Clinton Hugh practices sprinting in his kayak near Main Beach in Cultus Lake July 2 in preparation for the 2014 North American Indigenous Games. - Greg Laychak
Clinton Hugh practices sprinting in his kayak near Main Beach in Cultus Lake July 2 in preparation for the 2014 North American Indigenous Games.
— image credit: Greg Laychak

Clinton Hugh will make paddling history this summer at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Regina.

Along with his competitors from around the continent, Hugh will be one of the first athletes in the history of the Games to compete in the new kayak category.

“I feel very excited and proud to represent B.C. at NAIG, and especially in this new kayak competition, as I am new at kayaking as well,” the 18-year-old said.

Regina 2014 NAIG will celebrate North American indigenous cultures with athletes from 21 indigenous regions competing in 14 sports.

“I am proud of who I am and what I represent in terms of my heritage, and I will carry myself with dignity and respect when I participate in the games,” said Hugh who is Sto:lo and Cree on his mother’s side.

He will compete in the 500-metre sprint, 1,000-, 3,000- and 6,000-metre races, as well as male and mixed canoe doubles.

A casual paddler for the last three years, Hugh didn’t get serious about his training until the opportunity to qualify for NAIG arose in September last year.

“His progress in the last 11 months has been outstanding,” said coach Jon Allen. “He’s naturally athletic and is always enthusiastic to learn and improve.”

Allen said that it’s hard to know how Hugh will stack up against the competition in Regina, but they’re focusing on having fun and ensuring he paddles to his potential.

As added training incentive, Allen promised to get his hair cut into a “mullet” earlier when Hugh had the same style. Although the young paddler has cut his hair since, coach said the offer still stands.

“If he gets good results, I’ll be getting a haircut.”

But with much more at stake than hairstyles, Hugh has undergone intense training in and out of the water. To supplement his sprint and slalom training, he continues to train in strength and conditioning as well as gymnastics on land.

And when he takes all of that preparation and hard work to Saskatchewan next week, Clinton Hugh will truly be testing new waters.

• More than 3,700 athletes age 13 to 19 will compete in the Regina 2014 North American Indigenous Games, July 20 to 27. Teams from 13 Canadian provinces and eight regions (each comprised of three to five states) in the United States will be competing. The theme of this year’s Games is “Raising the Bar”. For more information, visit regina2014naig.com.

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