Yukon speedskaters won't be heading to Nuuk for the Arctic Winter Games this year, but that doesn't seem to have dampered the team's spirits as they prepare for a replacement competition this weekend in Calgary.
Speedskating was one of six sports — along with dog mushing, curling, gymnastics, figure skating, and the midget hockey division — not included in the 2016 Games, because Nuuk doesn't have the facilities to host ice sports.
Phil Hoffman, of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club, said that he was worried the club's numbers would drop with speed skating not being in the Games, but said "it actually hasn't affected us that much."
A separate set of games, the Arctic X Games, were going to be held in Whitehorse as a replacement, but that plan fell through after teams from Alaska and Alberta withdrew from the competition.
"We have a group of skaters who are going to a meet called RU Fast in Calgary this weekend," he said. "There are three skaters, the higher level skaters, going to what's called Canada West in Edmonton, in March."
Although the Yukon team has managed to maintain their numbers, Hoffman said that's not the case across the territories.
"I know talking to the coach in Yellowknife that he lost some skaters this year," he said, "because there was no speed skating at the Arctic Winter Games."
12-year-old standout looks towards 2018 Games
Caius Taggart-Cox, 12, is one of the athletes heading to Calgary, and is admittedly disappointed to not have the chance to go to the Arctic Winter Games.
Like many Northern athletes, Taggart-Cox is proficient in multiple sports. He said that he'd thought about trying out for the Yukon biathlon team last fall, but had a speed skating competition that weekend.
Taggart-Cox said he loves speed skating.
"It's really fun, fast and technical," he said. "It's more than going in circles."
Despite being unable to go to Nuuk, Taggart-Cox is still looking forward to skating in Calgary, where he'll be competing at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary.
"It's an amazing rink," he said. "A rink solely for speed skating, with a long track speed skating rink going around the outside, so it's a really fun place to race.
"I may be racing up a category, in an older division, so it will be quite a bit more competitive. Hopefully I'll get better times, and beat my personal best."
Even though Taggart-Cox wasn't able to attend the Arctic Winter Games this year, he's still looking forward to participating in the event in the future. He said that he's set his sights on making Yukon's speed skating team when the Northwest Territories' South Slave region hosts the 2018 competition.