Though he's won numerous championships during his wrestling career, Riel Parisien achieved a first at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). The 17-year-old Metis captured the gold medal in the boys 69-kilogram category on Tuesday at the Games, being held in his hometown of Regina.
Parisien, however, was more ecstatic at the fact the Saskatchewan boys' squad, which consisted of six wrestlers from across the province, also won the overall team trophy. "Personally it means a lot," said Parisien, who will begin his collegiate wrestling career at the University of Saskatchewan this September. "I've won a lot of tournaments, but I had never won a team event before. It was something new for me and so surreal. It felt better than just winning a tournament [on my own]."
About 3,600 athletes from across Canada and the United States are participating at the NAIG, which continues until Sunday. Athletes are competing in 15 different sports.
Parisien, who began his wrestling career a half dozen years ago, was one of five entrants in his weight class. He won all four of his matches to capture the gold medal.
Though organizers had originally scheduled the wrestling portion of the games to be held over two days, ending on Wednesday, all action was completed on the first day.
Parisien, who had represented Canada at the world under-18 championships in Serbia last August, beat a competitor from the Quebec-based team called Eastern Door and the North in the gold-medal match.
Winning his category was a goal he had set going into the NAIG. "I honestly felt really confident going in," Parisien said. "But there's always nerves that set you back a bit. I was a little nervous, but I felt the more I wrestled, the more confident I got."
Since he's competed at national and world meets before, Parisien knew that the calibre of athletes at the NAIG would not be as stiff as he has faced in other events. "This was really a warm-up tournament for me before I go to university," he said.
Parisien, who also beat entrants from Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland, said he enjoyed the fact the multi-sport competition is in his hometown. "It's a good feeling because I had so many supporters there," he said. "I had a lot of family and friends there, and I had the families of the other guys on my team cheering me on as well."
Though he knows he'll start representing his university soon, Parisien is not quite sure when his next competition will be. "There's always competitions going on," he said. "And I'm always looking to compete. I'm not sure what is next for me, but it's usually my dad and me going to events. I could be at an event somewhere down south in the U.S. next weekend or even further south. Or we could be going overseas somewhere."
Before that, however, Parisien is keen on attending various other NAIG events. "I'm going to go and support Team Saskatchewan as much as I can," he said. "Whatever sport it is I'm going to see if I can make it there."