Hay River to host N.W.T.'s 1st Arctic Winter Games archery trials

Twenty archers in the N.W.T. are competing in Hay River this weekend for a spot in the the Arctic Winter Games' first archery competition.

20 athletes from 4 N.W.T. communities are competing for spots at 2020 Arctic Winter Games

A file photo of students taking aim. Twenty archers in the Northwest Territories are set to compete in Hay River this weekend for a spot in the Arctic Winter Games' first archery competition. (John Robertson/CBC)

Twenty archers in the Northwest Territories are set to compete in Hay River this weekend for a spot in the Arctic Winter Games' first archery competition.

Archery isn't an official sport of the games, but it could become one.

The Arctic Winter Games International Committee is interested in incorporating other events, so for these games, for the first time, they approached a host city about their regionally important sports. 

Ian Legaree, the technical director of the Arctic Winter Games' International Committee, said Sport Yukon and members of the Whitehorse Host Society in 2017 recommended adding archery and freestyle skiing to the 2020 sports roster.

Legaree said the board chose to add archery because both small and large communities were interested in the sport.

No one had recommended archery prior to 2017 because, as Legaree put it, it's still an emerging sport across Canada. 

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Whitehorse 2020 Arctic Winter Games confirmed that this will be the first time for archery in the games.

5 teams to compete at Arctic Winter Games

So far, five regions out of nine have said they will be sending a team of archers to Whitehorse, including Northern Alberta, the N.W.T, and Yukon. 

Greenland and the Yamal region of Russia will also send archers to this year's games.

There's always been some sort of interest in ...bow hunting for generations in the territory.- Aaron Wells, executive director of Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT 

The N.W.T.'s team will be decided this weekend, after archers compete for the highest number of points over two rounds. Athletes at the trials will shoot 30 arrows each per round (known as a 300 round). The closer they get to the bull's-eye, the more points they get.

Athletes will also be evaluated on their attitude and coachability. 

At the Arctic Winter Games, the archers will compete over multiple days in individual and mixed team events, followed by a head-to-head elimination round. 

Archery rising in popularity in N.W.T.

Over the last eight to nine years, archery has been rising in popularity in the N.W.T., said Aaron Wells, executive director of Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT. To boost participation in the sport, the Aboriginal Sports Circle has held archery workshops in partnership with schools and gym teachers in all 33 N.W.T. communities. 

A bow rests against a tree in Yellowknife at the 2018 N.W.T. Archery Championships. This year, the Arctic Winter Games will include archery for the first time. (Emily Blake/CBC )

This is not the first time the territory has sent archers to important sporting events. N.W.T. archers have participated in the North American Indigenous Games for at least a decade, and last year, four young archery athletes represented the territory for the first time at the Canada Winter Games. 

Wells said archery has roots in Indigenous communities in the North — hunters used it to sustain their families. 

"There's always been some sort of interest in … bow hunting for generations in the territory," he said.

Wells said the expected turnout of 20 athletes for this weekend's trials in Hay River is a good starting point that could show the international community that there's interest in archery. 

Archery has been tentatively selected as a sport for the 2022 Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta.


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