In his final swim competition at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), Jacob Mitchener, Team N.W.T.’s flag bearer, narrowly took third place.
“I was actually scared and then I looked up at the clock and I was in third,” he said.
“And it was a repeat of my last NAIG, two bronzes, it’s a good way to end it.”
Mitchener, 17, beat his personal best time in the under-19 100-metre backstroke to qualify for the medal round, and then beat it again to take the bronze.
Mitchener’s parents both said watching him compete this week has been special for them.
“Pretty proud moment. NAIG has been so much fun for all of us because this is his last big swim meet,” Darryl Mitchener, Mitchener’s father, said on Thursday morning.
Mitchener said he was proud of his fellow swimmers, many of whom also got personal bests.
Mitchener has been a leader to the younger swimmers on the team, and that leadership is what earned him the honour of carrying the N.W.T. flag at the opening ceremony, his parents said.
“He really has worked very hard, and actually he’s very humble and a really good mentor for the team. So it was a really big honour for him,” said his mother, Charlene Doolittle.
Mitchener competed in NAIG in 2017, when he was 11 years old, winning two bronze medals there as well.
“Our kids have been to the Arctic Winter Games, Summer Games and Westerns and NAIG. NAIG is — sorry — my favourite, because of the cultural experience, all the Indigenous people gathered together. The kids are so proud of who they are and where they come from,” said Doolittle.
Although he can’t compete in NAIG again, Mitchener said he plans to continue swimming competitively and hopes to coach at the next NAIG competition.
Mitchener wasn’t the only N.W.T. swimmer to win a medal at this year’s games.
On Wednesday, Kole Lizotte won a bronze in the under-14 50-metre freestyle.
Although she didn’t win a medal, 8-year-old N.W.T. swimmer Marin Rutherford-Simon competed in the under-14 200-metre backstroke against swimmers five years her senior.
She said she had fun in the competition, and her favourite part was spending time with her teammates.
Team NT wins first gold
On Thursday, Team NT also won its first gold at the 2023 NAIG.
Ethan Boucher, Greyson Catholique, Kyren Poitras and Kohl McDonald will take home medals their victory in the under-14 4×400-metre relay.
The NAIG events continue through Saturday in Halifax, but the closing ceremony will take place on Friday.