(Swimmers give it their all at the NAIG pool in Toronto, Ont. Photo: Trina Roache/APTN)
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At 13 years old, Cadence Patton from Kahnawake, Quebec has spent more than half her life in the pool. And now she’s the youngest swimmer for Team Eastern Door and the North (EDN).
“In competition there’s stress but then you have your teammates and it makes it more fun and you get in the finals and it’s even more fun,” said Patton. “It’s a lot of layers to a competition.”
Patton hops out of the pool after the 800 metre freestyle, tired but smiling and upbeat.
“She has a lot of potential,” said team coach Gabriel Rabbitskin. “When I was younger, I was also a distance swimmer so I can see a lot of her in me I guess. She’s having fun, you can tell.”
Rabbitskin is coaching now, but came to the North American Indigenous Games as a competitor three times during his swimming career, taking home seven gold medals and one silver.
“The Indigenous teams that are coming in now, you’re seeing more and more elite swimmers. Back in my day, you had a few here and there,” said Rabbitskin. “But now you’re seeing more interest in the sport and can see as that as indigenous people, we’re branching out to other passions.”
Poolside after her swim, Patton listens attentively as Rabbitskin gives her pointers for the next race.
(Gabriel Rabbitskin talking to 13-year-old Cadence Patton, a competitor from Kahnawake. Photo: Trina Roache)
He said swimming competitively teaches responsibility and respect and requires a deep commitment. Athletes need to dive into the pool everyday if they want to make it to an elite level.
Team EDN has seven members competing in the pool and some are medal contenders. Patton made the finals for three events including the 50-metre freestyle.
She’s hoping to swim away with medals, but Patton said these games offer a lot more than that.
“I just met so many new friends,” she said. “And I’ve learned teamwork, even though it’s an individual sport. And I have a lot of drive because of swimming. Someone tells me to do something and I’ll do it.”
Patton is already planning to compete in the next North American Indigenous Games in 2020.
(Swimmers in the pool in Toronto, Ontario at the North American Indigenous Games. Photos courtesy Trina Roache/APTN)
“Me and my parents have been talking about it ever since I knew I was coming here,” she laughs. “It was such a big thing to make this team!”
Patton enjoys the stress of competition, but she isn’t entertaining Olympic dreams. For her, the pool is an escape from the stress of the everyday life of a teenager.
“It’s like a place for me to like think of nothing else but swimming,” said Patton. “When I come into the pool, I just black out and focus on my swimming and its’ just relaxing, it’s like therapy kind of. It’s just fun.”
The NAIG swimming competition wraps up on Friday.
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