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No gold, but Mohawk star shines at Olympics (Waneek Horn-Miller).

Waneek Horn-Miller's achievements as an athlete may have finally overshadowed her involvement in the Oka crisis 10 years ago in Kahnawake, Que. At the age of 14, she was in the midst of a volatile confrontation between the Mohawk people, the town of Oka and the governments of the day over the issue of a municipal golf course on Mohawk territory. When she was struck and knocked down by a Canadian soldier's bayonet, the incident made front page news.

Today at age 24, Horn-Miller joins an elite group of athletes who have achieved fame and adulation because they have competed in the Olympics. The Canadian women's water polo team marked its debut at the 2000 Summer Games, where Horn-Miller's team defeated Kazakhstan 9-8 in overtime and finished fifth in the standings on Sept. 22. Australia took the gold.

"My mother taught me that being dedicated to something is important. Love the journey, whether you achieve the goal or not," Horn-Miller said prior to the games.

On Sept. 18, the feisty co-captain was one of four players on her team who scored two goals when they defeated Kazakhstan 10-3 in round-robin play. The day before, Canada had tied the United States 8-8 in a second preliminary game. On Sept. 19 the Canadian women lost 7-4 to the Netherlands in round robin play, and by the same margin in the same scenario to Australia on Sept. 20.

"I love the roughness," said the tough competitor about the contact sport, even though her nose has been broken three times and there have been other injuries. Regular swimming with its repetitive practice laps was too boring for her, she said.

Always motivated to work hard, Horn Miller, who is a member of the Ottawa Titans Water Polo Club, was already winning medals at the 1986 Ontario provincial championships in girls' under-10 sprint freestyle swim water polo and at university she contributed in large measure to her school winning two Ontario athletics titles and a bronze. By 1996 Horn-Miller was on the national senior women's team, which placed fifth in both the 1197 and 1999 FINA Cup meets against the world's top athletes.

It was in 1999 that she qualified for the Sydney Olympics and she cinched with a gold medal in the Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg the same year.

The talented Horn-Miller has distinguished herself in other ways that will ensure she isn't remembered just for her brawn.

Although she was a three-time female athlete of the year at Carleton University, she graduated with a political science degree in June, and now hosts a weekly television show, First Music and Arts, on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

The water polo star made sure her education had a broad base.

"I took everything," she said in an interview with Windspeaker last winter. "Philosophy, She speaks Spanish too.

Horn-Miller is as fearless in front of the camera as she is at her game; she recently achieved notoriety for a tactful nude photo on the cover of Time magazine's Olympic preview issue. That was with the blessing of her team mates. The gesture was meant to help raise awareness of water polo in Canada, which lags behind other countries in sports funding.

This year, Horn-Miller, who was born Nov. 30, 1975 in Kahnawake, also became the National Aboriginal Achievement Award winner in the youth category.

"I'm going to be an athlete my whole life," she said in February when the award winners were published.

She was certainly training that way. Horn-Miller said months before going to Sydney that 25 hours a week she swam, ran and lifted weights, with Thursdays and Sundays off.

She added that although she appreciated the chance to compete in the Olympics, making the team was "no more difficult than the single, young mother who struggles to become a doctor or something."
COPYRIGHT 2000 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Author:Taillon, Joan
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Oct 1, 2000
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