While Jolyn Watts was competing at the Special Olympics World Games, her father was running an excavator, building a bicycle trail alongside the highway between Tofino and Ucluelet.
“I was making a rock wall around this culvert,” recalled Lloyd Watts. “I was being real crabby.”
But Lloyd’s day changed after news came through his phone about the result Jolyn’s 1,500-metre race, a long-distance run that earned her a gold medal.
“I looked at it and there was a picture of her with the gold medal,” said Lloyd. “I turned my excavator around, I put my bucket down, and I just started crying. So proud.”
The recent World Games in Berlin, Germany were particularly successful for Jolyn, as she also came home from the international event with a bronze medal in the women’s 4x400 relay event. It’s an inspiring result that the Tseshaht formally recognized on Saturday, Aug. 12 with a gathering at the Paper Mil Dam Park on the First Nation’s reserve.
Fellow Tseshaht members began the gathering with singing and dancing, leading to Jolyn being carried on a platform by four men before those in attendance.
“I was on cloud nine for a week or two myself just for her accomplishment,” remarked Tseshaht member Les Sam, noting Jolyn’s outgoing personality. “Anywhere I went, when I bumped into Jolyn she would go, ‘Hey Les!’ as loud as she could anywhere she was.”
“Our family really wants to congratulate you in your accomplishments on such a long journey, far, far from home,” said relative Linus Lucas, who gave Jolyn a new name at the gathering. “She will today be known from our family as Quuana-aaksuq, woman holding the gold.”
As those in attendance awaited lunch, 50/50 tickets were sold, the proceeds going towards the Port Alberni Special Olympics.
“A big thank you for helping my daughter along the way,” said Lloyd. “That rock wall that I built is called ‘The Gold Wall’, between Tofino and Ucluelet.”
The successes of other young Tseshaht athletes who competed at the North American Indigenous Games in July were also recognized on Aug. 12. The First Nation has three bronze medal winners from the youth event, which was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia July 15-23. These medalists include Jaidin Knighton, who earned third place with B.C.’s under-16 girls basketball team, as well as Hayleigh Watts and Jamie-Leigh Lucas, who both won bronze with the province’s under-16 softball squad.