NAIG Athlete Spotlight: Swim team member Ayiana Gagne

This summer young athletes from all across North America will gather to compete and represent their communities in the 11th North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). The games have been held every three years since 1990. Initially scheduled to take place in 2020, the 2023 NAIG will be held in Halifax, NS. Previous editions of the games in Canada have seen upwards of 5,000 athletes in attendance from the United States and Canada.

Several athletes from the Rainy River District have been chosen to represent Ontario as part of the delegation going to Halifax. The Times has contacted the local athletes who we know are going to be participating but if you know anyone from our district who will be participating we’d love to feature them as well send us an email to Good luck athletes!

Ayiana Gagne

What Sport and position are you playing at the NAIG?

I was selected to swim for Team Ontario in the U19 division. 

What do you love about your sport, how long have you been playing?

I love the sport because you are racing the people beside you and yourself. It all comes down to you and the clock and it is very exhilarating! I have been swimming for more than half of my life – about 12 years now. 

What community will you be representing?

I am representing Lac Seul First Nation. 

What inspired you to try out for your team? 

I was inspired to try out for this team because I swam for Team Ontario in 2017, and it was such a memorable experience that I wanted to do it again! Ever since that meet I’ve been waiting for the next NAIG to come around. 

What did the tryout process look like?

Tryouts were online for the swim team, and they pick each swimmer based on their times. I didn’t have to attend any in-person tryouts, which worked out for me because I was in BC for school and I wouldn’t have been able to come back to Ontario for them. 

How have you been preparing?

I swam for the UVIC Vikes Varsity Swim Team which kept me in shape during the school season. Now that I’m back in Fort I try to get into as many open swims as possible during the week. On Saturday mornings I drive to Atikokan and train with my team and coach, Tom Hainey. 

What are you most looking forward to at the Games?

I am most looking forward to experience the environment again. Being able to do the sport I love while representing my community is such a privilege and an honour. I can’t wait to see some of the swimmers I met during the last games, and I’m ready to race on a big stage again!