While Alexandria Loutitt celebrates her bronze medal ski jump win, the N.W.T. Gwich’in community is celebrating with her. “We have a number of young people chasing their dreams across Canada,” says Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik.
While 18-year-old Calgarian Alexandria Loutitt celebrates her historic Olympic ski jump bronze win, the N.W.T. Gwich’in community is celebrating with her.
“Alexandria showed a tremendous amount of resiliency, dedication and pure talent in excelling at her sport — a sport that’s not easy to get into or to find success in,” said Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik, who confirmed that Alexandria is a member of the Nihtat Gwich’in based in Inuvik.
“And these are relatable attributes that she shares with so many other Gwich’in youth. We have a number of young people chasing their dreams across Canada.”
On Monday, Team Canada ski jumpers Loutitt, Matthew Soukup, 24, Abigail Strate, 20, and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, 30, won bronze in the first ever mixed-gender competition at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The team also won Canada’s first ever medal in the sport, nearly 100 years after its debut in the 1924 Olympics.
Sandy Loutitt, Alexandria’s father, told CBC News he was in shock at the win, and grateful for the Gwich’in encouragement.
“It’s what every parent would hope for for their own children.”
Sandy explained that the family’s Gwich’in relationship comes from his grandmother Laura McLeod, who lived for many years in Fort McPherson along with Sandy’s grandfather, Colin ‘Chippy’ Loutitt, whose cabin is featured in Old Town Yellowknife’s Self-Guided Tour.
“Ali’s connection to the North, and her heritage, comes from the stories of her grandfather. And that created this sense of community that she didn’t really have the opportunity to participate in because we didn’t live in the North.”
Alexandria grew up in Calgary.
Sandy said it was luck and happenstance that she got into ski jumping through a summer camp nearly a decade ago. He said her brother had initially tried and she insisted she try too. She got hooked.
“The passion has turned into something that is remarkably uniting all kinds of communities and people,” he said. “She’s made so many sacrifices and worked so hard at it and passed up a lot of the social things that will be very important to a young teenage girl in order to pursue this dream.”
“It’s a powerful moment for us to have all of that work and effort rewarded.”
Kyikavichik notes that Alexandria joins other Gwich’in contributors to the Olympics: Aklavik twin sisters Sharon and Shirley Firth and curling’s Kevin Koe.
He encourages other young people to fit physical activity and sport into everyday life.
“I’m a firm believer that participation in sports and activity, both organized and unorganized, is important for young people to develop themselves both personally and professionally. It provides things such as learning about teamwork, preparation,” he said.
“As they say, in our community of Aklavik, the ‘never say die’ mentality prepares our youth for success into the future while promoting their overall health and wellness.”
While the Gwich’in have not supported the Olympian financially, he acknowledges the need for organizations like the Gwich’in Tribal Council to find ways to help fundraise and support more people to follow dreams in high performance athletics.
“When this pandemic subsides, we’ll be ready with open arms to hopefully have them visit our communities, to hear their stories, inspire our youth and to further celebrate their successes in person,” Kyikavichik said.
Historic bronze medal ‘means everything’ to Canadian ski jumpers
Alexandria Loutitt and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes join Andi Petrillo to discuss Canada’s first-ever medal in ski jumping. 3:56