You’ll have noticed my byline was missing from the sports section over the past few days. I just got back from Toronto after saying goodbye to my grandfather and that’s the reason. He died on May 24.Many people have been kind about it and have offered well-wishes and please accept my sincere thanks for those kind words. Can’t say the same for some others who apparently don’t like to answer “20 questions” over the phone or through e-mail, even though it’s part of their job descriptions.

Deanne Whenham, seen during the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto last July, won the Junior Female Athlete of the Year honour at the Sport North Awards on May 26, a worthy win for a great year. NNSL file photo

Anyway, the Sport North Awards happened last weekend and I wasn’t able to attend for the first time in a while. It’s always one of my favourite times of the year because plenty of worthy people are justly recognized for what they’ve done over the last 12 months. Since I couldn’t play the ol”’ prognostication game as I like to do pre-awards, I figured a post-mortem is in order.

First, seeing Deanne Whenham win Junior Female Athlete of the Year was one award I was happy with. She’s had a great last year in golf, winning the Yellowknife Golf Club’s women’s championship, but the big moment was her gold medal at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto. She’s worked hard for a long time (yes, I can remember those days when she was so shy she purposely stayed away whenever I wanted to talk to her) and that gold medal was icing on the cake.

She was surprised to see me when I was covering the games in Toronto and that usually means one thing: nerves. Naturally, I stayed as far away from her as I could (couldn’t say the same for Zack Horton, who couldn’t do enough to ham it up for me). The phone call after she won was one of the better interviews I’ve had because of the mixture of happiness and shock in her voice.

When it came to the Corporate Contributor award, could there have been any other winner than Carl’s Carpet Cleaning? I actually would have picked the late Carl Bulger’s company to take the prize because very few people have done more for the city in terms of sponsorships and support. There wasn’t a cause or a drive that Bulger didn’t embrace and having his company get the honour was the right choice.

There are many companies that do plenty of good but it won’t be the same without Bulger around anymore.

There are no-brainers every year (and I need to be careful about saying that because one of my no-brainers very nearly caused a civil war) and this year, it was Wilson Elliot, who won Junior Male

Athlete of the Year. It came down to Elliot and Gabriel Leclerc, who had a great year in swimming, but Elliot had it by a nose.

He had a great year on the judo tatami (mats) and had top-three finishes in several of his events. It’s a shame that his most recent exploits couldn’t be counted but it simply cemented the fact that he is the best judoka in Canada for his age and weight class. He’s off to Argentina next month for the Pan-American Championships and it’s a well-deserved honour for someone who’s worked hard at his craft.

I still say he will be on the podium at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., next February and I dare say he will be the one who stands the highest on said podium. No pressure, Wilson.

Luke Dizon was another winner who deserved his Junior Male Athlete of the Year award. Hard to argue that he’s probably the best track athlete out there in his age category in the NWT and one of the best in Western Canada. He proved it with medal hauls all over the place but my favourite story is the time he went to a meet in Manitoba last summer and told me that there were athletes who didn’t want to compete against him.

The reason? They had found articles written by me about how he had laid waste to opponents and they didn’t want to suffer the same fate. You’re welcome, everyone.

Those were some of the winners but everyone who won certainly deserved what they won. You aren’t the best because you got a giant gold star with “Participant” written on it. You got it because you won and were the best. Now keep it up and keep giving me good things to write about.

I promise I’ll be back next year – I’ve already RSVP’d so there’s no worry.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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