Sappa Cookie and Timiusi Kittosuk say they’re proud to represent their community on the international stage.

The two young badminton players are the first athletes from Sanikiluaq, pop. 854, to head to the Arctic Winter Games in 15 years. Both boys were selected during territorial trials.

“I’m so excited,” said Cookie, 14, “because this is my first AWG experience.”

The Arctic Winter Games are something of a rite of passage for many young people in northern Canada.

Every two years, hundreds of athletes from all three territories, as well as northern Quebec and northern Alberta, are selected to head to the games. In 2012, the events took place in Whitehorse. This year, the games will be hosted in Fairbanks, Alaska, where athletes are also expected from northern Russia, Greenland and Norway.

This year Nunavut will send 285 athletes, coaches and mission staff to the games, including people from 21 out of 25 Nunavut communities.

"I think it's great that two of our players have been picked because it's actually helped get other people into the gym,” said coach Stephen Keoughan.

Sanikiluaq’s badminton team formed three-and-a-half years ago. About 40 players are registered locally and the club is continuing to grow.

Kittosuk has been practising four days a week since Christmas and says his hard work has paid off. “I like to win,” he says.

But whether they win or not is not weighing heavily on the mind of their coach.  

"They're both good winners and good losers. If they win great, if they lose, they're still pretty happy about it. They don't get mad like a lot of young people do. They go in with a very positive attitude and whatever happens they go out with it."

The Arctic Winter Games are more than a celebration of sport. Each contingent also arrives with a team of cultural performers and young people have a week to make new friends from across the circumpolar world.