AWG 2018

Team Yukon arrives at the Arctic Winter Games with hopes to own the podium

Team Alaska is the perennial favourite to take home the most medals at the games, with Team Yukon often battling with Team N.W.T. for second place, but Yukon's chef de mission says that could change this year.

Could a mix of youth and experience be a success for Team Yukon?

Team Alaska is often a favourite to take home the most medals at the games, but officials with Team Yukon say this year that could change. (Stephen Anderson-Lindsay/Team Yukon)

Team Yukon enters the 2018 Arctic Winter Games with an eye on improving on its second-place finish in the overall medal standings in 2016 and competing for the top prize.

Alaska is the perennial favourite to take home the most medals at the games, with Team Yukon often battling with Team N.W.T. for second place, but that could change this year, explained Trevor Twardochleb, Yukon's chef de mission.

Sports funding in Alaska was cut, and Yukon is fielding experienced athletes who are in a position to win a medal, he said.

One team in particular is the biathlon team, Twardochleb said, which has had "exponential growth." The futsal team will also be of special interest to him — one of his daughters is on the team.

Team Yukon is bringing 256 athletes to the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Hay River and Fort Smith. Team officials say they have a good mix of youth and experience. (Stephen Anderson-Lindsay/Team Yukon)

Twardochleb says there could be some sibling rivalry on Team Yukon's speed skating team. They've got some siblings going to the games at the same time — including a set of triplets.

There are some challenges this year though, in some sports like snowboarding, older athletes are opting to compete in southern Canada instead, Twardochleb said.

"They'll have a team of younger kids that are outstanding, but are they going to make the podium? I don't know" he said. "They might."

Judy Russell will be wrestling for Team Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games. (Stephen Anderson-Lindsay/Team Yukon)

Team Yukon will be made up of 256 athletes from Whitehorse, Dawson City, Haines Junction, Mayo and Old Crow.

"To me this is a developmental games, so I really like it when there's kids from the communities," Twardochleb said. "When there are kids going to the Arctic Winter Games for the first time, they're so excited and then you get sort of re-energized."  

But athletes shouldn't feel pressured to win, just do their best, he said.

"I never try to put pressure on any of our athletes," he said. "I know that some years I'm totally surprised at how well we do, because there's a bunch of up and comers, mixed with some old veterans."

Cultural Contingent

Team Yukon is sending six dancers to the games as part of its cultural contingent.

Also, keep an eye out on the toques athletes and coaches will be sporting in Sunday's opening ceremonies and throughout the games, which will be adorned with specially-made wolf fur pompoms.

Volunteers in Haines Junction made the pompoms with pelts from a local wolf trapping program.      

Team Yukon is sending a group of six dancers as part of its cultural contingent. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

By the numbers

Athletes: 256  

Mission staff: 16  

Coaches: 40

Medal history

Nuuk 2016: 100 (second overall)

Fairbanks 2014: 85 (fifth overall)

Whitehorse 2012: 121(second overall)

Grande Prairie 2010: 101 (fourth overall)

With files from Joanne Stassen