Nfld. & Labrador

Athletes battling it out in traditional Inuit sports at Labrador Winter Games

Even recent medical conditions couldn't keep some competitors from giving their all at the Northern Games event.

Chantelle Bursey of Labrador City kept her gold in the women's over the rope competition

Josh O'Reilly of Labrador City gave it everything he had in the hurdles event and the Northern Games. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

It is a display of athleticism and a battle for some athletes to overcome injury at the Northern Games this week in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. 

"Five months ago, I had emergency open heart surgery, so that was my push and it really helped because I wanted to be here," said Claire Sainsbury, who is attending the games from Cartwright.

The Northern Games, a showpiece of traditional Inuit sports and one of the most anticipated events at the Labrador Winter Games, is mandatory for all participating communities.

Male and female athletes compete in four different games. On Thursday evening, athletes took on the hurdles and the over the rope competitions.

It is a sold out EJ Broomfield arena both nights for the Northern Games event (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Sainsbury came in second in the female over the rope competition, hauling herself over a painful 30 times, shouting in pain as she fought through a foot cramp. 

"Amazing, that's the only word I can say," Sainsbury said.

"It's so good to be here and do good."

Champion reigns 

Chantelle Bursey of Labrador City, who also missed out on training because of a herniated disk, beat Sainsbury by only one over.

"I had my No. 1 fan in the audience, my daughter," Bursey said.  "I heard her say, 'Mom, come on, keep going' and when she yelled that — do five more  —and I punched five more." 

In 2016, she set a games record with 44 over the ropes. 

"No," Bursey answered when asked if she was trying to beat her record this time. 

"I was three years younger then," she said laughing and out of breath..

Overcoming hurdles

In the hurdles event, athletes must jump over a row of 20-inch-high hurdles. They get one shot to jump as many as they can. 

Neko Dyson of Cartwright jumped an impressive 162 hurdles at Thursday night's men's competition. He has been training hard after tying for the gold medal at the Northern Games three years ago. 

"I really want to [win the gold] this year," Dyson said. "Big practice every night down home."

Cartwright's Neko Dyson says he jumped 162 hurdles in this year's competition. He is hoping to get the gold medal all to himself at this year's event. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Athletes compete in all four events and are awarded points depending on how they place. The Northern Games conclude Friday evening, with the final two events: the one-foot high kick and the seal crawl.

More from the Games 

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About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.