The Arctic Winter Games' first host territory, the Northwest Territories has participated in every Games since they began in 1970. However, heading over to Greenland for just the second time ever provides special challenges to the territory's 300-plus contingent, according to chef de mission Doug Rentmeister.
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"There's language issues, there's things that we take for granted over here," he said. "I think how well our kids adapt to not just a different community, but a different culture, and its culture and its habits and such, will be interesting."
For 2016, the Northwest Territories' contingent is filled with representation from smaller communities. Eighteen of the territory's 33 communities have a representative heading to Nuuk, and four additional communities have team alternates selected.
In addition to the participating athletes and coaches, the Northwest Territories contingent will also include members from the 2018 host society, who are preparing to host the next iteration of the Games in the territory's South Slave region.
The list of athletes has a unique aspect, as well: for perhaps the first time ever, the Northwest Territories will be relying on girl power.
"There's 10 more females than males on the team," said Rentmeister. "That's the first time I recall.
"Usually it's close to the middle, but we're primarily more male dominant. But this time around, it's the females that take the prize."
Rentmeister was diplomatic about his team's chances in Nuuk, saying that the territory's focus is to have participants compete hard and have a memorable experience they can bring back home.
"Obviously we'd like them to do well," he said. "But that's not the focus of our participation."
By the numbers
- Size: 270 (athletes and coaches), 325 (total)
- Communities represented: 18 (22 with alternates)
- Fairbanks 2014: 86 (4th overall)
- Whitehorse 2012: 115 (3rd overall)
- Grande Prairie 2010: 107 (3rd overall)
Athletes to watch
Despite the Northwest Territories losing many of its usual medal contenders due to the six sports cut from the 2016 Games, Rentmeister said that there are a few names to keep an eye on in Greenland. The territory has a history of producing high level skiiers and biathletes, and this year appears to be no exception.
That group includes snowshoe biathletes Lucyann Okheena and Jacob Klengenberg. Both athletes are from Ulukhaktok, a community which hasn't had a representative at the Arctic Winter Games in "decades," according to Rentmeister.
"Both of them did really well in territorials," he said. They're running in -30, that kind of stuff, and shooting in those kinds of temperatures as well. So they've been really on top of things and working hard to be competitive over in Greenland."
Rentmeister also singled out the territory's men's basketball team, which is looking to repeat its gold ulu performance from 2014, the first time the Northwest Territories ever won the event.
Rentmeister was quick to single out the cultural aspect of the 2016 Games as a potential highlight, saying that the Nuuk host society was placing a heavy emphasis on showcasing performers from all the participating teams.
"That's one thing I've really noticed, there's a really strong cultural component to this set of games that we haven't seen before," he said. "We've had separate teleconferences, just on culture alone."
The Northwest Territories' contingent will be powered by two sets of twins: the Double Treble fiddlers. Based in Yellowknife, twins Anne and Elizabeth Thomas and Sophie and Grace Clark have been fiddling together since they were eight years old. The twins perform traditional fiddle music, including songs written by Northern fiddlers like Colin Adjun.
"They perform at Yellowknife Farmer's Market, and open mics all the time," said Rentmeister. "Really excited to see them over there putting their best foot forward."
Cultural actor Tiffany Ayalik, also from Yellowknife, will join the fiddlers in Nuuk. Ayalik will perform herself and work with youth performers during the Games' workshop program.