Janee’ Kassanavoid Is the First Native American Woman to Medal at the World Athletics Championships

Getty Images / Christian Petersen

For the first time ever, the World Athletics Championships are being held on US soil, and American track and field athletes are making history left and right. Take Janee’ Kassanavoid, for example, who just became the first Native American woman to medal at the games, clinching a bronze medal in hammer throwing.

“I am SO incredibly thankful and blessed for this opportunity to throw heavy rocks,” Kassanavoid wrote in an Instagram post about her win. “To everyone who has supported me and followed me, THANK YOU! My fellow natives, women and young athletes DREAM BIG, WORK HARD & MAKE IT HAPPEN. WE’RE JUST GETTING STARTED.”

Standing on the podium together in Eugene, OR, Kassanavoid and Brooke Andersen, who won the gold, also made history: it was the first time two US women medaled in a throwing event at an outdoor World Athletics Championships.

“Brooke and I have both been competing against each other forever,” Kassanavoid told World Athletics. “We’re super best friends, so each of our journeys are truly special and to be here on American soil, on native land, is something super special for me.”

The championships are being held at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon (UO), which is the traditional indigenous homeland of the Kalapuya people, according to UO. In the 1850s, the Kalapuya people were stripped of their homeland by the US government and forcibly removed to a reservation in western Oregon. Kassanavoid, who grew up in Lawson, MO, is a member of the Comanche tribe.

The 27-year-old qualified for the World Championships by snagging the silver medal at the United States Track and Field Championships in June.

“My goal is to empower and inspire; to use my platform to share my journey with the next generation of athletes,” she wrote in an Instagram post with a series of photos from the meet. “My story may connect with many who share similar trials and tribulations. There is power in sport and I urge everyone to NEVER give up! If you have a dream, GO get it! The road may seem lonely and it will never be easy but it will be WORTH IT.”

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