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Ancient Arctic sports

With events like "knuckle hop", "ear pull" and "sledge jump", the Arctic Winter Games are more than just another international athletic competition. The best of the North compete in ancient native games alongside hockey and curling as part of the biannual event. The Games began in 1970 as a way for folks living north of the 55th parallel to compete on their own turf. It has since evolved into a sporting and cultural extravaganza where throat singers and dog mushers help preserve the distinct northern way of life.

Ancient Arctic sports are the highlight of the 1980 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse. Events such as the "airplane" and the "ear pull" have become perennial crowd favorites. Despite the enthusiasm of the spectators, these unusual games remain more novelty than legitimate sport. For many Canadians, the ear pull may simply seem like a painful exercise but it's a game designed to hone one's endurance, explains a northerner in this CBC Television report. The ability to withstand pain could -- and did -- save lives in the harsh Arctic climate.
• Arctic Inuit sports currently (2004) include the one-foot high kick, two-foot high kick, Alaskan high kick, kneel jump, one-hand reach, head pull, knuckle hop, airplane, sledge jump, arm pull, head pull and triple jump.
• In the airplane, three men carry a teammate face down supported at the wrists and the ankles. The event is over when the body, usually the chest, dips towards the ground.

• In the knuckle hop, players in push-up position hop forward on their knuckles and toes in a contest to see who can last the longest.
• In the one-foot high kick, competitors must take off on two feet, kick the target suspended in air and land on the foot that kicked the seal. The competitor who kicks the highest wins the gold ulu. It is considered to be the most difficult Arctic sport.

• In the kneel jump, competitors propel themselves forward from a kneeling position and land on both feet. The object is to jump the furthest.
• In the sledge jump, competitors jump over sledges (lined up in a row) landing and taking off with both feet together for as long as possible. Sledges are the type normally pulled by dogs over the Arctic snow.

• In the head pull, two opponents face each other with a band wrapped around their heads. They then pull backwards and use their strength to pull the band off their opponent's head.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 21, 1980
Guest: Ed Lennie
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Colin Hoath
Duration: 1:34

Last updated: March 17, 2014

Page consulted on March 17, 2014

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