WASILLA — The Cook Inlet Tribal Council recently announced their decision to move the 2021 Native Youth Olympics to a virtual model for the second time as a result of the pandemic.

“Our traditional Native games represent the innovation and resilience of Our People,” Cook Inlet Tribal Council President and CEO Gloria tO’Neill stated in a recent press release. “This year, that means bringing forward a unique virtual format that incorporates healthy physical distancing. What is most important is that we are continuing to celebrate the values of NYO. We’re excited to see how this virtual format may expand the games, creating greater access for students unable to travel to Anchorage for a traditional in-person event.”

The 2021 NYO officially kicks off April 5. Middle and high school athletes across Alaska will compete entirely online from their respective communities recording individual performances and submitting the videos to NYO officials for judging.

According to the press release, Cook Inlet Tribal Council has put on the NYO since 1986, celebrating Alaska’s rich diversity and by opening the games to students of all cultures while fostering values such as teamwork, leadership, and cross-cultural respect while also testing endurance, skill, and balance of both mind and body.

NYO typically takes place in late April at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. NYO Head Official, Nicole Johnson said they couldn’t secure any locations in Anchorage, and the situation ultimately called for another socially distant competition despite their hopes to host a live event. She said they ultimately made the decision two months ago.

According to Johnson, only 68 athletes participated in the 2020 NYO. She said they’re hoping to see more participation this year with the return of the coaches.

“That was our biggest plan and motivation first, to try and see if we could do a live event. But that just did not pan out, so we immediately moved into planning the virtual event knowing how important it is because these games are so unique; and because of the friendships that are built through these games. We wanted to make sure we could at least try to build it through friendly competition, even if it’s virtually,” Johnson said.

Johnson said one of the silver linings to the situation is the fact that the virtual model makes it easier for Alaskans in remote and rural areas to participate without making extensive travel plans.

According to Johnson, another silver lining is that athletes can compete in any event this year. She noted there are no team events and no records will be allowed to be made this year. She said that athletes will be recording their scores based on the honor system with an award ceremony livestream event for the top 5 finishers.

For more information, visit the NYO Facebook page or the Cook Inlet Tribal Council website at citci.org/partnerships-events/nyo-games.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

MORE INFORMATION

Virtual Competition Schedule:

Student athletes will submit videos of individual performances according to the following dates:

Week One (April 5-11): Alaskan High Kick, Scissor Broad Jump, Wrist Carry

Week Two (April 12-18): Two-foot High Kick, Kneel Jump, One-hand Reach

Week Three (April 19-25): One-foot High Kick, Seal Hop, Toe kick

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