North

Team Yukon parties, parades to mark Arctic Winter Games that never were

With mixed emotions, hundreds of people paraded and then danced in a street party in Whitehorse on Sunday to mark the Arctic Winter Games that never were.

The Arctic Winter Games were cancelled the weekend prior

Team Yukon met up for a celebration in Whitehorse on Sunday. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

With mixed emotions, hundreds of people paraded and then danced in a street party in Whitehorse on Sunday to mark the Arctic Winter Games that never were.

Team Yukon hockey player Maddie Nicholson said she was looking forward to competing against Team Nunavut.

"That's kind of too bad that we aren't playing, but it's nice that all of Team Yukon can get together today," she said.

After several speeches in the parking lot of the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, the athletes, volunteers and others marched north on Fourth Avenue to Main Street. There, the afternoon event ended with a street party.

Several people at Sunday's event questioned the logic behind gathering in a crowd while the number of cases of COVID-19 in Canada continues to grow and governments announce more changes to everyday life.

On Friday, the Yukon government said in a press release that the chief medical officer of health of the territory "endorsed the event, which is low risk for the spread of COVID-19."

Hockey players Wynne Anderson-Lindsay (left) and Maddie Nicholson, pictured in Whitehorse on March 15, were supposed to compete in the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. Nicholson said it was her last chance to compete in the games. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Nicholson, who turned 19 on Sunday, said she learned of the Arctic Winter Games' cancellation while in Penticton, B.C., to play hockey.

"It was pretty devastating because we were all excited for it to be on home ice," she said.

Also there was teammate Wynne Anderson-Lindsay.

"I cried in the restaurant," the 15-year-old said with a laugh.

The competition was cancelled the previous weekend because of concerns about the novel coronavirus.

Neziah Oliver-Antoine, 15, was supposed to compete in snowshoeing, a sport she said got into because it was the closest thing to a running sport in the competition.

She said she was "super mad — not even sad — just really, really mad" after learning about the cancellation, but understands it was the right thing to do.

"Now I'm kind of happy about it and excited for us to just celebrate what was going to happen," Oliver-Antoine said.

Neziah Oliver-Antoine, pictured in Whitehorse on March 15, was supposed to compete in snowshoeing in the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. (Steve Silva/CBC)

If it hadn't been cancelled, it would have been the fourth time Nicholson competed in the competition.

Nicholson said it was also her last chance to compete in the games, but she hopes to return as a coach for the team one day.

A silver lining is that the athletes were able to keep their merchandise, she said.

"It kind of sucks not being able to trade it," added Anderson-Lindsay.

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