Jose Pruden gets nervous when she watches her son Slade swim competitively.
That's no secret.
"I don't handle competition very well," she said "In my head, I'm always like, 'You're not on the block fast enough! You're not not doing this!'"
But at Slade's biggest competition of his life so far, last week's North American Indigenous Games in Toronto, Jose was overcome with one emotion while she watched her son in person at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre: pride.
"It was incredible – just so much pride," she said. "You don't know where you stand in the group because it's a Canadian, North American group, so you don't know how you measure up to other swimmers and we were just all excited to see him come in preliminaries in third and think, 'Wow, he has a chance for at least one medal.'
"Then he came home with six."
Slade, who swims with the Battlefords Kinsmen Orcas, raced six times at NAIG and won six medals in the 14U male category: two silver and four bronze.
The 14-year-old said he never thought that would have been possible.
"My goal was to come back with at least one medal and do my best in all the races," he said. "Meeting new people, making friends, the competition, everything was just amazing."
When he made the podium for the first time, a bronze in the 50-metre freestyle on July 20, he couldn't believe it.
"I was in shock. I didn't think I would get a medal," Slade said. "I was really nervous going into it because everyone there had a really good time and I was just hoping that I could make the podium at the end of it."
Slade on the podium would become a regular occurance that evening and the next, as he also finished in second in the 50-metre butterfly and 100-metre backstroke, plus claimed bronze medals in the 200-metre individual medley, 50-metre breaststroke and 100-metre freestyle.
Leading up to the competition, Orcas swimming coach Ally MacLeod wanted Slade to focus on his kicking.
He said kicking hard was certainly on his mind during the races, but it wasn't the only thing he was thinking of.
"I was just trying to push myself," he said. "Whenever I thought, 'I can't go faster,' I just went faster after that."
Slade had people cheering him on, not just from back home in Saskatchewan, which included his Orcas teammates, but from family across the country.
Because CBC only streamed one day of the swimming finals, Jose ended up live streaming all of Slade's races on Facebook so any family or friends could tune in.
"I had family all across Canada who chimed in and were really grateful to be able to watch it online," Jose said. "For me, that really warmed my heart. Just the support back home from his teammates, other Orcas that are headed to the Canada Games now and his coach.
"Just to know everyone supported him was pretty special."
Team Sask also got to go on a trip to Niagara Falls during their time out East, which was another highlight for Slade.
For Jose, the opening ceremonies were a favourite memory, as conversations about reconciliation mean a lot to her.
"I was there when the 94 recommendations came out in Ottawa and it always brings a tear to my eye when we hear about things happening about reconciliation," she said. "It's so nice to hear people acknowledging the traditional lands that the games were played on and we're starting to hear that everyday more and more, but that was very evident [at the games].
"There were no borders when we were there, except for when Team B.C. and Team Saskatchewan were fighting for first place," she added with a laugh.
Team B.C. ended up edging out Saskatchewan for the overall medal title, 179 to 166.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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