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‘Movement is Medicine’ for Masters Indigenous Games athletes

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By Desmond Anuku

Set on soaking up every moment of the Ottawa 2023 Masters Indigenous Games, Michelle Kennedy covered a lot of ground over the course of the two-day athletics competition a month ago at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.

“There really aren’t that many events, like on this scale, that are for adults and older people,” highlighted Kennedy, noting the Games provide an incentive for participants to stay fit. “Movement is medicine, so it’s always good to focus on being in touch with your body.”

Organized by Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario, the 2023 Games took place on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people from Aug. 24-27.

The competitions in archery, athletics, basketball, canoe-kayak, golf and volleyball were held with the goal of promoting movement, health, and cultural unity. Most events featured a junior category for age 20-39 and senior for 40 and above.

Kennedy won one of the 58 gold medals awarded at the Games in the junior women’s 800 metres, halting Ottawa Lions Track-and-Field Club runner Erinn Baptiste’s dominance of at one lap (Baptiste won the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m).

Kennedy also earned silver medals in the 400 m, 1,500 m and 6 km cross-country race as well bronze in the 100 m, 3,000 m and long jump.

But collecting a pile of hardware wasn’t the only focus for Kennedy, who was a varsity track-and-field and cross-country runner for the Laurentian University Voyageurs from 2011 to 2016 while she studied Indigenous education.

“I love doing the track events and they added a cross-country race, so I mostly came for that,” signalled Kennedy, a member of Oneida of the Thames First Nation who’s now an assistant professor at McGill University. “But it was also to see friends and move, and just to have fun and spend time with my family.”

Basketball competition at the 2023 Masters Indigenous Games. Photo: Desmond Anuku

With the 2021 edition of the Games cancelled during the COVID pandemic, the chance for Masters Indigenous athletes to gather had been long-awaited.

“It’s just a great event to have everybody come together as one from different cultures, different traditions, and share their stories, come into a healthy community and just for laughter and happiness,” reflected an organizer and athlete development coach from Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario.

This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at:

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