The 47th Native Youth Olympic Games got underway in Anchorage on Thursday.
About 500 student athletes are in the city representing their schools from more than 100 Alaska communities. After months of practice, the NYO Games are their state championships for 10 competitive events, including the stick pull, wrist carry and high kick.
The games run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage. There are also events outside the athletic competition, including a Pilot Bread recipe contest and blanket toss. Admission and parking are free.
Marjorie Tahbone, a former athlete and coach, said the competitive events are like most sports — kids get involved for fun and fitness — but they also have a connection to the past and the often unforgiving environment that is home to Alaskans.
“All of these games have a significant purpose, and all of the purposes have to do with survival,” Tahbone said. “All of the games were meant to test your abilities and skills and also prepare you for being out on the ice or being out on the land and hunting and just for survival in general.”
The student athletes said Thursday that they appreciate the cultural significance of the games, but they’re also in Anchorage to have fun and make new friends.
That includes Palmer 7th grader Mia Weiss who is competing in the wrist carry.
It’s an event that taught Weiss, who stands about 4-foot-7, that she has a special ability.
“Because I’m really short,” Weiss said, laughing. “It’s like NYO is different from any sport. It’s really cool, because if you’re different sizes, you can find an event that fits you.”