For the last few years the regional Native Youth Olympics (NYO) have been like the opening ceremony or kick off for the Peninsula Winter Games which began in 1976 when Sterling missionaries Al and Bernice York started the first Games with the vision of getting families on the Peninsula outdoors and enjoying traditional Alaskan winter sports like dog mushing and snow shoeing. A few years earlier in the spring of 1971, the first NYO were organized in Anchorage. That year, NYO consisted of twelve schools, which included Anchorage boarding students, a team from Mt. Edgecomb, and some state operated schools from as far away as Sitka and Nome. The event took one afternoon, and approximately 100 students participated.
The original NYO organizers wanted an opportunity to demonstrate their favorite Native Games. By sharing their games with others, it was hoped that the people of Alaska would not forget the many traditional contests of their forefathers. Since that time, interest and the number of competitors has grown and regional events like the one on the Kenai Peninsula have sprung up around the State. The competition is open to all Alaskan students in grades 7 to 12 regardless of ethnic origin. While events like the one-legged high kick require astonishing coordination others like the stick pull teach strategy and surprise as well as strength. The competition is more about getting better at a skill than defeating your opponent and each competitor can be found helping one another to be better and improve techniques. NYO is a vehicle for participants to gain confidence and improve self-esteem. NYO puts an emphasis on flexibility, power, balance, concentration, agility, physical strength, and stamina. There are medals given out for first, second, and third place finishers in each event in both the boys and girls divisions. This year’s event drew teams from Anchorage, Seward, Kenai, Chickaloon and Tebughna. Find complete results of the regional NYO at peninsulaclarion.com.