Original article by Bejamin Aubé, Timmins Press http://www.timminspress.com/2014/08/01/barrette-swims-to-seven-golds-at-naig

Swimmer Patrick Barrette, 15, shows off the
seven gold medals he collected at the recent
2014 North American Indigenous Games in
Regina, highlighting an impressive contingent
of local athletes. BENJAMIN AUBÉ/The Daily
Patrick Barrette, son of Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizen Robert Barrette, won a gold medal at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games in Regina. Then he won another. Then another, and so on. In the end, Barrette finished with seven gold medals to his name.

Through a constant smile, the outgoing young Timmins swimmer, just 15 years old, described his experience at the Games, which were attended by close to 5,000 young athletes from across the continent.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Barrette. “There were a lot of new people to meet – like, a lot of people. You get to bond with your teammates and see the different cultures there, and you get to know your culture more, and appreciate it. Not many people get this experience, right?”

Barrette, whose father Robert is of Métis heritage from the Penetanguishene area, highlighted an extremely impressive performance by Timmins athletes at the NAIG. Along with a pair of team relay gold medals, Barrette also took top honours in the 50 and 100 metre freestyle events, the 100 metre breast stroke and the 200 metre backstroke. His brightest moment came in the 200 metre individual medley, where he took 12 seconds off his personal best time on his way to yet another gold.

Robert and Jo-Anne Barrette, who accompanied Patrick to Regina for the Games, were clearly proud of their son’s exploits in the water. However, Robert explained that Patrick’s willingness to learn about his Métis culture and the experience he absorbed in Regina will serve him well beyond his time in the pool.

“It was just nice for him to be able to be with his brothers and sisters from across Canada and across North America,” said Robert. “It was great to meet tonnes of people and get that experience. With the cultural village, all the teepees, all the things going on – it was just amazing.

“The Métis in Timmins is growing, and it’s nice to be part of an Aboriginal ancestry and have something like the NAIG where you can understand and learn the cultures, and meet Elders. It’s nice for me to explain it to him, but sometimes it’s better for him to actually go out, meet friends, and they can do it together. That’s what they did, and that’s pretty cool.”

With his unforgettable performance at the 2014 NAIG, Barrette qualified for next July’s World Indigenous Games in Brazil. Though organizers are still working out the logistics of the event, it’s possible some of the aquatic events will be held in the mighty Amazon River.

Barrette could hardly contain his excitement at the prospect, and his parents, too, admitted they were looking forward to the trip.

“We’re going to end up probably going to Brazil with him,” said Robert. “He’ll go and enjoy himself, and the parents will definitely go and check out the different events out there. It’s nice because it covers all the sports: Baseball, lacrosse, soccer, archery, shooting, badminton, kayak. It should be a lot of fun.”

Barrette made sure to thank those who’ve made the impressive start to his swimming career possible. He explained he’s had financial and personal support from organizations such as the Métis Nation of Ontario Timmins Council, Detour Gold, Centre culturel La Ronde, J.L. Richards, as well as family friends, the Stephens, which have helped him reach many of his goals. He also credited his coaches Kelly Baker and Tracy McCartney of the Timmins Marlins Swim Club.

“I really appreciate all the support,” he said.

“My parents come out, and my mom is at almost every single meet. She’s the loudest screamer I’ve ever heard in my life. I met a family, and the swimmer was like, ‘My mom is a very loud screamer.’ I just said, ‘You haven’t met my mom.’”

Barrette trains upwards of 30 hours a week, and pulls no punches when he talks about his long-term goals: “I want to go to the Olympics,” he says.

Looking to take the next step in his career, Barrette has formed a strong bond with Canadian Olympic hero Brent Hayden, who swam to a hard-earned and memorable bronze medal in London in 2012. If all goes well, Barrette and Hayden will be in the pool together later this summer for a training camp.

“He’s got some mentoring from Brent,” said Robert, “and when he comes back, we’ve got Tracy pushing him hard now. He’ll get to where wants to get if that’s what he really wants.”

With a few more days to bask in his experience at the NAIG, Barrette said there are many memories he’ll never forget. But the story of Gerald Bunting, Barrette’s teammate from Sioux Lookout, will forever stand out in his mind.

“We had one guy (Bunting) who was supposed to go down for volleyball, but he decided to go into swimming instead,” explained Barrette. “This kid had never swam in his life. He learned how to swim in two hours. He came out with two bronze medals and a silver. That was just the best experience.

“He’s a big guy, he’s just jacked, and he had never swam in his life. I mean, he swims in lakes for fun, and he didn’t think (swimming competitively) would be that hard. He came out saying it was harder than hockey, badminton, volleyball.

“We had a lot of fun with that guy. We were happy to get more people who don’t do the sport that often, and help them out. We just had a great time.”