When Team NT marches into the Western Canada Summer Games opening ceremony this evening in Swift Current, Sask., they will do so under the lead of Naomi Yukon.
Yukon, who plays with the girls basketball team was selected to be the flag bearer for the territory by Rita Mercredi, Team NT’s chef de mission and the selection was made official in a press release on Aug. 4.
Yukon said it’s a great feeling to be able to have the honour.
“I’m super excited to be representing the NWT and I’m sure everyone back home will be proud,” she said.
Back home for Yukon in Deline, where she was born, but she’s called Yellowknife home for the past couple of seasons, going to school at St. Pat’s and playing with the Deton Cho Eagles girls high performance team.
“I talked to my parents and my cousins and my family and they’re all rooting for me,” she said. “They’re excited for me also and I’m really proud of that.”
The first feeling which went through Yukon’s head was one of shock when she was informed that she would join that exclusive club of flag-bearers.
“I was stoked and really shocked,” she said. “I had no idea. Aaron (Wells, assistant coach) came into the gym and he called my name and then made an announcement. He made such a really great speech about me and my heart just dropped. I was so happy because all of the hard work I’ve done is paying off.”
Naturally, it was all kept a secret and Yukon said she had absolutely no clue that she was even being considered.
In describing Yukon, Wells said she is a young and mature athlete who stays out of trouble and dedicates herself to the sport of basketball.
“She is a quiet leader who leads by example on the court and speaks up when she needs to,” he said. “She is an excellent role model for the younger generation in her home community.”
In the press release, Mercredi stated that she knows Yukon will carry the NWT flag with pride.
“When reviewing the nomination for Naomi to be our flag bearer, it was clear that she embodied the characteristics of what it means to be a Team NT athlete,” she said.
This is just the latest Team NT venture for Yukon; she’s played previously with the girls squads at the 2016 and 2018 Arctic Winter Games and is considered a front-runner to make the team for the 2020 Games in Whitehorse next March.
Having the chance to be able to do this has been really cool, she said.
“I miss home a lot but I feel like it’s better for me here (in Yellowknife) than back home right now because of basketball,” she said. “I get more opportunities here.”
Yukon does have aspirations of playing post-secondary basketball, the location of which hasn’t yet been decided, she said.