A 13-year-old archer is breaking records and helping build her sport in the N.W.T.
Sophia Elder has broken 13 national archery records since she first picked up a bow in 2019.
The Yellowknife resident, formerly of Alberta, wants to share her skills and help develop the territory's archery program.
She hopes to do that by working with Archery NT and running skills clinics in the communities.
"Archery NT is working really hard in supporting me and the other communities and trying to get them more into archery and that seems really cool," she said. "So I hope I could help coach some of the other communities and go to the schools and help them."
Though Sophia said the N.W.T. has fewer archery resources than in Alberta, she's excited about the opportunity to have an impact on the program.
"It takes a lot of work and you have to be very stable and you have to do everything exactly or else it won't go," she said. "I just really liked that consistency of shooting."
Archery part of new 'regionally relevant' AWG category
Sophia is one of eight archers who will be representing the Northwest Territories at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Wood Buffalo, which begin Jan. 29.
Though she's lived in the N.W.T. less than a year, she said she's proud to compete for Team NWT.
"I find it really cool that I've had this opportunity to shoot in the Arctic Winter Games because if I was still in Alberta I wouldn't be shooting in it."
Archery is part of a new, regionally relevant category in the AWG.
Kyle Seeley, part of the AWG International Committee, said the category was added to allow host communities to showcase venues or events that are unique to the host society.
It was set to first be introduced in the 2020 Whitehorse games where Whitehorse chose freestyle skiing and archery as its regionally relevant sports, but the 2020 games were ultimately cancelled due to COVID-19.
Seeley said the category creates variety in the tournament, which doesn't see much turnover in the other categories.
Sophia's father, Shane Elder, is also involved in the sport as an archery judge. He'll be judging the AWG, though not in Sophia's category.
He said he's proud to be a part of the first AWG archery competition.
"There are a lot of traditional roots within these communities, using archery as a form of hunting and sustainment, and we're just so proud to be sending a team for the Northwest Territories into that."
A proud dad
Shane took up archery at the same time as his daughter.
He said he doesn't have much of a knack for shooting arrows but could lend a hand on the organizing side, fundraising and helping to build resources.
Shane said that he's, of course, proud of Sophia's accomplishments, but he's most excited about the experiences she's gained in competing across the country and how that's helped her develop as a person.
"You're meeting new people, you're learning how to speak, you're engaging other archers, you're engaging the community and I believe those skills are very much developed within those roles as an athlete."
In preparation for the AWG, Sophia has been training with a barebow — that is, a bow without sights or stabilizers. That's the shooting style Sophia earned many of her records with, and it's what she'll be shooting in Wood Buffalo.
After the games however, Sophia plans get back into olympic recurve shooting — a style she says comes with more opportunities for competition.
Though she doesn't expect to make a career out of it, Sophia said archery will always be a part of her life.
"Archery just makes me feel good," she said.