It was only Veronica McDonald’s first time at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics (WEIO) in Fairbanks, Alaska, yet she’s coming home with five medals – four of them gold.
Two of McDonald’s medals were won in sports she had never tried before and wasn’t even confident she was executing correctly: a gold in scissor broad jump and a bronze in blanket toss.
She also took home gold in two foot high kick, Alaskan high kick, and kneel jump – where she nearly broke the world record with her 54 ¼ inch jump.
The 23-year-old, from Fort Smith, has competed in seven Arctic Winter Games. Earlier this year, as the Games took place in the South Slave, she met many Team Alaska athletes and coaches who encouraged her to compete at WEIO over July 18-21.
McDonald was told she could join as many events as she wanted, and so in total she competed in an astounding 12 events over the four days.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I’m always excited to see new faces and old faces.”
As far as she’s aware, she was the only NWT athlete competing at WEIO this year.
“I came here with the mindset that the games were very different [from NWT’s Arctic sports or Dene games],” she said, explaining that in Alaska some games have different rules or are open to multiple genders.
“I was really trying to perfect my form so that I could come here and kick a little bit better than I usually do in competition,” McDonald said, although for some of the sports, such as blanket toss, she wasn’t able to practice.
WEIO, held every July in Fairbanks, has many sports familiar to the NWT – such as knuckle hop and stick pull – but also features lesser-known competitions such as fish cutting, seal skinning, muktuk eating, and greased pole walk.
When she gets back home, McDonald hopes to encourage more youth to participate in traditional sports through sharing her talents in demos and telling youth about the different events they can compete in.
“I just want to be able to teach everybody and open the sports up to more people,” she said.