Kanyen'kehá:ka athlete to compete in track and field at Olympic Games in Tokyo
07/11/2021 19:04 in News

A Kanyen'kehá:ka athlete is proud her hard work has paid off, landing her a spot on Team Canada at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer.

Jillian Weir, whose maternal family comes from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in southern Ontario, will compete in the women's hammer throw, a track and field event.

"I'm excited, honestly, to just be able to take part and represent Canada and to represent the Mohawk nation. I feel like that's a huge accomplishment," she said.

She is one of 57 athletes on Canada's track and field team.

She said it's important for Indigenous youth to see themselves in a sport they don't always have access to.

"I think I should be able to be a model of, you can do anything, you can play any sport and you can reach the highest level no matter where you come from, what you look like or who you represent," said Weir.

Her grandmother Carol Udall said Weir has always been competitive. While Udall won't be able to attend the games, she is proud of Weir's accomplishments and said there is interest in having her speak in Tyendinaga when the games are over.

"The band office would like to interview her," said Udall.

"They want her to come and talk to the young people. Jillian is a very good speaker and she would be good for the young athletes coming up in the world."

Jillian's father Robert Weir is a three-time Olympian, having competed for Great Britain in the hammer throw and discus throw, while Jillian has competed in the Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games and the World Athletics Championships. 

 
Jillian Weir says it's important for Indigenous youth to see themselves in track and field. She hopes to speak to Indigenous youth when she returns from the Olympics. (Claus Andersen/Athletics Canada)

She came just shy of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics but vowed to continue pursuing her dream of becoming an Olympian.

"I was very close to making it in 2016," said Weir.

"There was no doubt in my mind when I didn't make it five years ago that I was going to continue on for the 2020 games, so it meant a lot to finally reach the pinnacle of our sport. Track and field is competing at the Olympics at the highest level and to have reached this, it just really means the world to me." 

Larry Steinke, track coach with Pronghorn Athletics at the University of Lethbridge, is Canada's throws coach and has been working with Weir for five years.

"She doesn't see any barriers to her success and as a committed athlete, she believes that with hard work, anyone can achieve what they set their mind to and desire," said Steinke.

When asked how many Indigenous athletes are on Team Canada for the Olympics, a spokesperson said the Canadian Olympic Committee began asking staff to self-identify this year and the next step will be to ask Team Canada athletes to do the same in the future "so that we can begin to remove barriers they may be facing."

Weir will be travelling to Gifu, Japan in the next couple of weeks for a training camp and will compete in the women's hammer throw qualifying round Aug. 1.

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