Sts’ailes First Nation athlete Syvawn Paul has been paddling a canoe since she first rode out in one at the age of six. But she wouldn’t even have competed in this year’s North American Indigenous Games in Halifax if it hadn’t been for some unexpected money from the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
The Agassiz canoeist won three gold medals, two silver, and one bronze at the games in July, and was “thrilled” that the archdiocese helped cover her travel costs.
“I am so grateful that I got to go, and I didn’t expect to do as well as I did,” she told The B.C. Catholic.
The 18-year-old medalled in all six of her races, including winning gold in the 1000m women under-19 singles and silver in the 6000m mixed doubles, in which she partnered with her brother Cyrus George.
That event with her brother was her highlight of the games. After the pair missed a corner and were passed by four other teams, they fought back hard to regain the distance, managing a second-place finish.
Participating in the games was “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said, noting canoeing “has been a part of my family for generations.” Her father owned both six-man and 11-man canoes.
Inspired by her love of the sport and her experience in Halifax, Paul wants to apply to be a coach for next year’s games.
Kevin Barlow, who chairs the Archdiocese’s Indigenous Healing and Reconciliation Fund, said funding assistance to help Paul get to the games had to be found somewhere other than in the reconciliation fund, since the approval process would have taken too long to allow Paul to attend.
Thankfully, he said, archdiocesan representatives “were able to shake the tree” and come up with $2,000 to help Paul travel.
“With a lot of youth stuck on their phones and social media, it’s a really good way to show we are supportive of communities and members who put their health first,” said Barlow.