Team Nunavut ready for 'experience of a lifetime' at Arctic Winter Games
Team faced difficulties training together as every sport but one has participants from various communities
Travel hiccups may have delayed team Nunavut's arrival at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, but that's nothing new for the team, according to chef de mission Mariele Depeuter.
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"I think just the travel," said Depeuter, when asked what the team's largest challenge had been in preparation for the Games. "Coming together and meeting as a team... we have 17 communities represented, so that makes it hard for team sports."
Despite the issues bringing together teammates from different communities — only the territory's Dene Games team, based in Arctic Bay, has been able to train together consistently — Depeuter says that she has high hopes for Team Nunavut, which is sending participants in seven sports.
"We've had a few training camps happening leading up to the Games, so I think those are the sports that we'll be watching for," she said. "For the first time in a while, we have a full female contingent for wrestling. So that's good to see."
Depeuter isn't too worried about results, instead encouraging her athletes to take in the "once in a lifetime experience" of heading to another country to compete. Many athletes on Team Nunavut have never travelled out of the country before, and had to secure passports in order to qualify for Nuuk.
Nunavut's contingent is a "little bit smaller" than usual due to the international location, said Depeuter, but that won't dampen the enthusiasm of the territory's traditionally boisterous team. Nunavut has won four Hodgson trophies, given out to the team "whose athletes best exemplify the ideals of fair play and team spirit," since it began competing in the Games in 2000.
"We're still coming with the same spirit and excitement."
By the numbers
- Size: 180
- Communities represented:17
- Fairbanks 2014: 32 (7th overall)
- Whitehorse 2012: 49 (6th overall)
- Grande Prairie 2010: 49 (T-6th overall)
Athletes to watch
One group to watch in Nuuk will be Nunavut's men's and women's volleyball teams. Both groups have been training together for months, and went to the Caribbean for an extended training camp in January.
"They've been training as a team for a while," said Depeuter. "They're in Iqaluit this week, training before they come over, so they've meshed well as a team. So we're excited to see that."
Depeuter also mentioned Arviat wrestler Shelby Angalik, who will carry the territory's flag into the opening ceremonies. Angalik is a veteran of the Games, having won two silver ulus two years ago.
"She was in Fairbanks in 2014, and she's coming back, hoping for a gold ulu," she said.
The territory's Dene Games team is also looking to make some noise in Nuuk. Based in Arctic Bay, the team had minimal experience heading into the 2014 Games in Fairbanks, but team member Rex Willie says that expectations have changed with two more years to prepare.
"First year was, for me, participating, to get there and learn, try to make friends and have fun," said Willie. "This year, I'm going to try to compete because I didn't win an ulu the last Arctic Winter Games."
Nunavut's cultural delegates are the Inuksuk Drum Dancers, an all-girls group based in Iqaluit. The group has been together for years and performs traditional Inuit song and dance.
"They'll be doing some throat singing and drum dancing," said Depeuter.
The group has had a busy winter. In January, they released a song written for a National Arts Centre song writing project. One month earlier, they released their first album.
With files from Cheryl Kawaja, Lucy Burke