Local athlete Kayla Giroux wins basketball gold at North American Indigenous Games

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A Fort McMurray athlete is a gold medal winner after Team Alberta’s 16U female basketball team took the top spot at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax last month.

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Kayla Giroux, 15, said she was surprised at how well Team Alberta did against the other teams. She said winning gold was an amazing experience, but is sad the games are over.

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“It was a very happy moment and the whole thing was a very good experience,” said Giroux in an interview. “It wasn’t just the basketball, either. Touring the city and cheering for other teams, it was all fun. They’re my friends now.”

Team Alberta went undefeated at NAIG. They started strong with a 74-24 victory over Team Ontario in preliminaries. Their second pool match was a 94-12 victory over Eastern Door and the North. They beat Team Manitoba 58-51 in quarterfinals and defeated Team Minnesota 73-36 in semifinals. Team Alberta won against Team Wisconsin 54-42 in the gold medal game. Team British Columbia took home bronze.

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Giroux averaged 5.0 points per game and her tournament-high score was 12 points against Easter Door and the North. Giroux said she was impressed with the performance from Team Manitoba, but found the other victories too easy.

The members of Team Alberta are spread out across the province. Giroux said the team practiced and trained together, and had an intense training week in Calgary before the games. They also bonded quickly socially and as a team.

Giroux is going into Grade 11 at Holy Trinity High School. She has played basketball since she was 10 and is a member of the Northern Trailblazers Basketball. She dreams of playing basketball at a post-secondary level. At school, she has competed in track and field events such as shot put, discuss and 400-metre events. But basketball is a passion.

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“It’s like an escape and it’s really fun,” she said. “Say I’m bored or upset, I’ll just go play basketball with my friends. It’s calming.”

About 5,000 athletes from more than 750 Indigenous nations who competed in 16 sports at NAIG earlier this month. Team Alberta finished fourth on the medal table with 26 gold medals, 27 silver medals and 28 bronze medals. This is the largest competition Giroux has attended and her first international athletic tournament.

Tayden Shott of the Fort McKay First Nation also won gold at NAIG. He competed in the 16U Male compound category for 3D Archery, defeating 21 other athletes from across Canada, New Mexico and Colorado.

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