Aiming high: Young sharpshooters take part in rifle competition at Indigenous Games
Transition from hunting to competition a natural one for many athletes at North American Indigenous Games
The rifle shooting competition is in its second day at the North American Indigenous Games, with dozens of young sharpshooters from across the continent hitting target after target at the Toronto International Trap & Skeet Club in Cookstown, Ont., on Wednesday.
One of the leading athletes in the competition is Mark Anthony Roberts, 17, from Campbell River, B.C., who first picked up a rifle when he was just 11 years old.
That fear quickly turned into what he believes will be a lifelong passion for shooting — and hunting. This is already Roberts's second NAIG and he's been in other competitions as well.
Bringing home gold
Competitors use .22-calibre rifles to hit a series of targets from 50 metres, using nothing but their naked eye. The NAIG competition includes three shooting positions: prone, kneeling and standing.
"Standing is definitely the hardest," Roberts said. "After a while, your arms get pretty tired."
"I'd like to go to the Olympics," he said confidently.
From tradition to competition
For many of the competitors at the NAIG, their first shooting experience involves hunting for food.
From Team Saskatchewan, Haley McCallum-Naytowhow, 17, remembers her father taking out into a field and asking her to shoot at an empty can.
She hit it on the first try.
"I've been shooting ever since," she said, adding that she hunts to keep sharp when she's not competing.
"Moose, basically, that's all I hunt."
She said she wants to coach at the next Indigenous Games and she has a message for younger people who might want to follow in her footsteps.
"Be strong, keep your head up and be confident with it. Don't ever doubt yourself."