The Indigenous Youth Olympics are among the most unique sporting events in the entire state of Alaska. And with unique events come unique training methods for the annual games.
Each event has a cultural meaning behind it that is related to or symbolizes a different aspect of Alaska Native culture. Apparently all events engage most and sometimes all of their body and require strong core muscles to perform and excel.
“We do workouts, we did a little yoga, a little Pilates to really build that core strength because in any game your core is what you need,” the Anchorage coach said. , Joanna Hopson.
The Wrist Carry shows the importance of a successful hunt, traditionally testing the strength and endurance of hunters and showing appreciation for the animal giving itself. In this event, an athlete hooks their wrist in the middle of a horizontal wooden pole and is carried by two teammates for as long as they can stay above the ground.
Sheila Phillip has coached NYO in the Lower Kuskokwim School District, which includes Bethel, and believes that having a strong core is just as important as having a strong arm and wrist, because without it, having strong arms is no enough to keep the legs and the rest of the body off the ground.
“Pull your arms, do chin-ups and hold as long as you can,” Phillip said, explaining his athletes’ training regimen. “A lot of push-ups, a lot of core. It takes the whole body to do this, especially the trunk and arms.
Bethel High School senior Landon Smith thought his wrestling background would give him a bit of an edge in the event and said it was hard to find specialized training drills.
“I usually train once or twice a day,” Smith said. “It’s really hard to train because you’re using your wrist, and you can’t train with that, so usually when I train I do it or I work my wrist in some way or other. another one.”
Excelling in the event comes more naturally to some and requires little or no practice. The 2022 men’s champion of the event was Dillingham junior Ethan Jenkins, whose preparation was quite minimal.
“Honestly, I haven’t really trained this year,” Jenkins said, though he noted his training for the event included basic drills such as 6-inches and scissor kicks.
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The Alaskan High Kick was played indoors during the winter months to help develop coordination, upper body strength, and concentration. The event requires athletes to sit on the floor and balance on one foot while reaching across the torso to hold their opposite foot. Leaning on the opposite hand, they push the balance foot up to hit an overhead ball and must land on the kicking foot without losing balance.
This event requires a tremendous amount of core strength and engages the entire body from head to toe. The top girls among the girls was Eden Hopson from Anchorage and for the boys it was Colton Paul from Mt. Edgecumbe.
“It’s about having core and upper body strength and a bit of lower body strength in my opinion,” Paul said.
He says his training for the event also includes handstand pushups and pushups with added weight.
“I stand up against a wall, do a handstand and shift all my weight onto one hand, then try to grab my kicking foot just to help me learn to go vertical,” said said Hopson.
She has been in the games for nine years since third grade and says playing and training basketball helps her train for NYO events. The elder also does jump drills to loosen his hips to widen more easily and calf raises in preparation for the high kick.
Paul also competes in several other events, including the One-Hand Reach, Two-Foot High Kick, and Scissor Broad Jump. He has been participating in the games for over five years and feels they help him connect more to his heritage.
“It means a lot to me because it brings me home,” Paul said. “It’s part of my culture and I’ve been doing it for a very long time, probably six years now.”
For the scissor wide jump, his training includes grabbing a 15-pound medicine ball and doing wide jumps on the ground. The event was used to practice the balance needed when jumping on the ice floe, and to keep warm and requires athletes to complete four continuous jumps/steps without losing balance.
Paul tries to stay in shape year-round, which helps keep his heart strong.
“Our kids do a lot of calisthenics,” Mt. Edgecumbe coach Archie Young said. “Bodyweight exercises, pull-ups, hand presses, push-ups, and just a lot of stuff to work on core strengthening, because one-handed reach is all about balance and your core.”
The one-handed reach requires athletes to balance their weight on the palm or knuckles of one hand, reach with their other hand to touch an overhead ball, and then place that outstretched hand on the floor without touching the ground other.
“The way I work on my fingers is that I do push-ups every day,” Paul said. “I do regular pushups, knuckle pushups for my triceps, then I do diamond pushups, then pipe pushups and after those I do fingertip pushups and also do bridge pushups .”
He trains for the Two-Foot High Kick with abdominal workouts, wide jumps, and just practicing for the event itself. This event requires athletes to jump with both feet simultaneously, hit an overhead ball, and then land on both feet without falling backwards. It was historically used to communicate the success of a spring hunt.
Hopson finished first for the girls in the One-Hand Reach and said she focused on her balance in preparation and spent a lot of time leaning on her hands and putting all her weight on on them so they don’t hurt themselves.
“Just being able to stay in the air long enough to get that little extra inch you need is something I find difficult to do, so I train a lot.” said Hopson. “I’m not doing anything to work my fingers, it’s more like training my knuckles to get higher.”