Champion shot putter hopes to show Indigenous youth 'they can get somewhere with sport'
The 11th annual Saskatchewan Indigenous Track and Field Championships begin Friday in Saskatoon
Hundreds of young Indigenous athletes competing in Saskatoon this weekend will have someone to look up to — but they'll have to look way, way up.
Brett Lachance, all six feet, nine inches and 295 pounds of him, will be throwing the shot put at the Saskatoon Field House during the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Lachance was a double gold medalist at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games. He also finished fourth at the national university championships, even though the second-year University of Saskatchewan education student is only 19 years old.
"What's my secret?" Lachance said with a laugh. "I just have to put in the work, practice a lot, keep working with my coaches."
Lachance didn't train seriously for track and field until he moved to Saskatoon two years ago, but has improved rapidly under coaches Dean Bertoia and Vince Salamon.
The Whitefish First Nation member never touched a weight growing up as the only Indigenous kid in the town of Meath Park. He can now perform seven squats in a row with 345 pounds on his shoulders.
"I've always been a naturally big dude, but I feel like I'm getting stronger all the time," he said.
Lachance has big goals: win the national university championships, travel and compete internationally and get the best out of himself. He also wants to serve as a role model for other Indigenous kids. He'll get that chance this weekend.
After he competes Saturday, he'll trade his shot put for a starter's pistol and work as one of the head officials. He wants the young athletes to see they can be athletes, university students, officials, coache, or whatever else they want.
"Being an Indigenous person, I know all the trauma that has been brought upon my people," he said. "If kids can see us, maybe when they're older they'll see they can get somewhere with sport."
Former U of S Huskie Derek Rope and others first hosted the event 11 years ago with just a few dozen athletes. This year, more than 600 kids from First Nations, towns and cities across the province will be running, jumping and throwing.
U of S head coach Jason Reindl says Lachance has "really taken off" in a short time and is excited to see how far he can go.
Reindl said there are more and more programs across the province for Indigenous athletes. The U of S Huskies squad now includes Indigenous stars like Lachance, distance runner Dezeray Wapass and multi-event athlete Keiran Johnson.
With Rope and others removing the barriers and creating a welcoming atmosphere, Reindl predicts this is just the "tip of the iceberg.
"We're starting to see the initial wave of young Indigenous athletes who are going to come through and really show the province and the country that they're ready to make their mark," Reindl said.
Reindl and 80 U of S athletes will be volunteering at the meet. He said it's one way for them to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.
The event is open to the public. It starts Friday evening and wraps up Sunday afternoon.