A Cree athlete returned to Manitoba on Tuesday proudly wearing eight medals after competing with Team Canada in the 2022 ICF Dragon Boat World Championships in Racice, Czech Republic.
Trina Ross from Pimicikamak Cree Nation won three gold, one silver and four bronze medals during the competition that ran from Sept. 1-3.
She was greeted by family, friends and leaders from Pimicikamak, as well as the regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and was presented with a star blanket and a beaded medallion after her plane landed at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.
"I feel very honoured. I'm just overwhelmed. I'm very happy to represent all the Indigenous ladies," said Ross, who was the only Indigenous woman on the team.
At the competition, the team made sure the rest of the world knew Ross was on their team. Whenever they displayed Canada's flag, they also made sure to display the flag from Ross' community.
Ross offered thanks to Jerome Seremak, the technical director and provincial coach of the Manitoba Paddling Association, for offering her a spot on the team.
"I'm just thankful that he gave me that opportunity to go with them, to be a part of his team and to represent our country and my community," Ross said.
The hardest part of the competition was the back-to-back races, she said.
"We just went from boat to another boat and it was hard. But we managed to finish," she said.
Cindy Woodhouse, Manitoba's regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, offered her support to Ross at the airport.
"I commend you so very much. You're an inspiration to our women, our men, our First Nations young people and for living a healthy lifestyle and for showing many of us what can be done," she said.
Pimicikamak councillor Lee Thomas grew up with Ross and said he's feeling a lot of pride.
"She has that dedication, that drive to be better. She works really hard. Her work ethic is second to none. It's an extremely proud moment for our nation."
Woodhouse said Ross offered a bright light in the midst of a horrific spate of stabbings on James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby community of Weldon, Sask.
"At a time that's just so tragic, we have such good news here today. We have hope and inspiration in you."