Team NT won more than 100 ulus at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games and still finished fifth.
Guess it was one of those years.
Nevertheless, it was still a big year for the territory’s athletes as they won a total of 102 ulus, the highest total since 2012 when the territory won 115. Speedskating made its triumphant return to the Games as did curling and midget boys hockey, all of which saw Team NT hit the ulu column in some way, shape or form.
Veronica McDonald of Fort Smith made it a homecoming to remember as she claimed five ulus in Arctic sports, all in the open women’s division. Four of those ulus were gold as she won the triple jump, kneel jump, arm pull and the all-around title while her silver came in the two-foot high kick.
Her gold ulu in triple jump set a new AWG record with a leap of 8.61 metres and she admitted it surprised even herself.
“I never thought I jumped that far,” she said. “I was surprised because I was just going out to try my best and the win and the record took me off-guard. My grandfather kept telling me I could beat it and he knew right away that I got it.”
The entire experience for McDonald was a special one. Especially considering that she got to compete in her hometown in front of friends and family, something she’s never had the chance to do in competition before.
“Everything was so special about it,” she said. “It was the most amazing thing with my family watching and the nerves were definitely there. I had no clue how I would do and I just wanted to do my best, especially coming off of a four-year break. I told myself after junior girls that I was retiring because the level of competition in open women’s is at such a high calibre now. My mom never got to do that, so this was special.”
It was nearly a clean sweep in hockey as the bantam boys and midget boys teams both won their gold ulu games while the girls team dropped a heartbreaker to Alaska, 3-2. Braeden Picek of Inuvik won himself two individual gold ulus in speedskating by winning the junior boys 1,000 and 1,500-metre races and then helping the junior boys 3,000-metre relay team to gold.
There were chances for Team NT to win gold in badminton on the final day of competition on March 24 as Casey Tai of Paulatuk was up against Dhruv Patel of Alberta North but he came up short, losing the match in straight sets.
Still, Tai said he was happy with a silver ulu considering he worked all week to earn it.
“I just missed a few shots in that game and that was the difference,” he said.
Tai had played all week in both singles and doubles, which makes for an exhausting time but he said you make sure you’re ready for every match.
“You just keep on going,” he said. “I find it fun and that helps out a lot. It was a lot harder than I remember the last time I played (in 2014).”
His younger brother, Junji Tai, won himself a bronze ulu by beating Christian Cao of Alberta North in that match.
But it was the Games themselves which were the star of the show and the man responsible for helping put it all together was able to get himself a decent night’s sleep for the first time in a while once everything was over on Sunday.
Greg Rowe, president of the host society, said it’s been mostly positive comments he’s heard since everything came to an end with the closing ceremonies on March 24 in Hay River.
“I always asked people how it was for them and people told me they had a fantastic time,” he said. “We stretched everything out in terms of resources between both Hay River and Fort Smith and the pride our region showed was simply amazing.”
There were some hiccups along the way, such as one of the Greenland buses ending up off the highway as it made its way to Yellowknife Airport, but Rowe said thankfully, everything sorted itself out.
“No one was seriously hurt and that’s the important thing,” he said. “There were no delays in departures and there were buses coming up behind it and they helped out.”
Having a bus come into that kind of situation was almost something that was drawn out in plans leading up to the start of the Games, he added.
“Mary Conibear worked in our operations centre and she went through different sorts of scenarios for us,” he said. “One of them was a bus going into the ditch, the one behind it jack-knifing and casualties because of it. You don’t want to think about that but you can’t take things for granted. Mary was a huge asset to us.”
In previous interviews, Rowe had said that if the region couldn’t pull off a successful event, small regions would never get to host again.
He said there was never a worry among his crew that they couldn’t do it but there were those on the outside looking in who doubted that things would play out as well as they did.
“You only have to see how track and field (territorials) happens each year to see that people know that the job has to get done, no matter what it takes,” he said. “The Arctic Winter Games is on a much larger scale than track and field but it’s the same idea: people do their jobs and it gets done. We had volunteers who put in 70 to 80 hours of time and that’s with a full-time job. We could not have done this without their help and I couldn’t be more proud. I dare say we put on a show that everyone liked.”
FACT FILE – NWT uluit
- Agnes Kregnektak, Tuktoyaktuk (Arctic sports) – junior girls Alaskan high kick
- Veronica McDonald, Fort Smith (Arctic sports) – open women’s kneel jump, open women’s triple jump, open women’s arm pull, open women’s all-around
- Effie Lockhart, Yellowknife (snowshoe biathlon) – juvenile girls 3-km individual
- Zhanayii Drygeese, Dettah (Dene games) – juvenile girls snow snake
- Juvenile girls hand games team
- Taylor Beck, Yellowknife (dog mushing) – six-dog 10-km junior co-ed
- Trey Beck, Hay River (dog mushing) – seven-dog 13-km junior co-ed
- Corbin Sinclair, Fort Smith (Dene games) – junior boys stick pull
- Junior girls pole push (Dene games)
- Junior girls futsal team
- Bantam boys hockey
- Midget boys hockey
- Dalton McLeod, Inuvik (speedskating) – junior boys 777-metre
- Braeden Picek, Inuvik (speedskating) – junior boys 1,000-metre, junior boys 1,500-metre
- Junior boys 3,000-metre speedskating relay
- Ben Toner, Yellowknife (snowboarding) – junior boys snowboard cross
- Veronica McDonald – open women’s two-foot high kick
- Anthony Kay, Inuvik (Arctic sports) – junior boys triple jump
- Kobe Keevik, Tuktoyaktuk (Arctic sports) – junior boys arm pull
- Casey Tai, Paulatuk (badminton) – junior boys singles
- Boys basketball
- Girls basketball
- Danika Burke, Fort Smith (ski biathlon) – junior girls 7.5-km individual start, junior girls 7.5-km mass start
- Julienne Chipesia, Inuvik (biathlon snowshoe) – junior girls 4-km mass start
- Kyran Alikamik, Ulukhaktok (biathlon snowshoe) – juvenile boys 2.5-km mass start
- Nicolas Bennett, Yellowknife (cross-country skiing) – junior boys 5-km classic interval start
- Boys curling
- Girls curling
- Kayleigh Hunter, Fort Resolution (Dene games) – junior girls finger pull
- Kale Beck, Hay River (dog mushing) – four-dog 7.5-km juvenile co-ed
- Anna Cassidy, Hay River (dog mushing) – five-dog 10-km junior co-ed
- Trey Beck, Hay River (dog mushing) – six-dog 10-km junior co-ed
- Taylor Beck, Yellowknife (dog mushing) – seven-dog 13-km junior co-ed
- Dog mushing team, six-dog 10-km junior co-ed
- Dog mushing team, four-dog 7.5-km juvenile co-ed
- Girls hockey
- Luke Dizon, Yellowknife (speedskating) – juvenile boys 400-metre, juvenile boys 500-metre
- Daphne Cloutier, Yellowknife (speedskating) – junior girls 500-metre, junior girls 777-metre
- Dalton McLeod (speedskating) – junior boys 500-metre, junior boys 1,000-metre
- Grace Clark, Yellowknife (speedskating) – junior girls 1,000-metre
- Junior girls 3,000-metre speedskating relay
- Juvenile boys 3,000-metre speedskating relay
- Tegan Konge, Yellowknife (snowboarding) – junior girls big air, junior girls rail jam, junior girls snowboard cross, overall junior girls
- Ben Toner (snowboarding) – junior boys rail jam, junior boys banked slalom, overall junior boys
- Boys volleyball
- Milo Martin, Yellowknife (snowboarding) – junior boys snowboard cross
- Georgia Martin, Yellowknife (snowboarding) – junior girls banked slalom
- Jed Mitchell, Fort Smith (snowshoeing) – juvenile boys 2.5-km cross-country
- Cameron Courtoreille, Yellowknife (wrestling) – boys 96-kg freestyle wrestling, boys 96-kg Inuit wrestling
- Agnes Kregnektak (Arctic sports) – junior girls two-foot high kick, overall junior girls
- Jarvis Mitchell, Inuvik (Arctic sports) – junior boys Alaskan high kick
- Noel Cockney, Tuktoyaktuk (Arctic sports) – open men’s sledge jump
- Junji Tai, Paulatuk (badminton) – juvenile boys singles
- Xander McMahon, Fort Smith and Junji Tai (badminton) – juvenile boys doubles
- Danika Burke (ski biathlon) – junior girls 6-km sprint
- Julienne Chipesia (biathlon snowshoe) – junior girls 5-km individual
- Juvenile co-ed biathlon snowshoe 3 x 2-km relay
- Junior co-ed biathlon snowshoe 3 x 3-km relay
- Bayleigh Chaplin, Fort Resolution (Dene games) – junior girls finger pull
- Annie Erigaktoak, Aklavik (Dene games) – juvenile girls snow snake
- Ryan Tourangeau, Fort Smith (Dene games) – open men’s snow snake
- Juvenile girls pole push (Dene games)
- Kayleigh Hunter (Dene games) – junior girls all-around
- Frank Elanik, Aklavik (Dene games) – open men’s all-around
- Kale Beck (dog mushing) – five-dog 10-km junior co-ed
- Intermediate girls futsal
- Juvenile girls futsal
- Kaleb Picek, Inuvik (speedskating) – juvenile boys 400-metre
- Braeden Picek (speedskating) – junior boys 500-metre
- Daphne Cloutier (speedskating) – junior girls 1,000 metre
- Seigna Hult-Griffin, Inuvik (speedskating) – juvenile girls 1,000-metre
- Luke Dizon (speedskating) – juvenile boys 1,000 metre
- Dalton McLeod (speedskating) – junior boys 1,500-metre
- Juvenile girls 3,000-metre speedskating relay
- Georgia Martin (snowboarding) – junior girls big air, junior girls rail jam, junior girls snowboard cross, overall junior female
- Tegan Konge (snowboarding) – junior girls banked slalom
- Milo Martin (snowboarding) – junior boys banked slalom
- River McQueen, Yellowknife (snowboarding) – juvenile boys banked slalom
- Jesse Hanthorn, Fort McPherson (snowshoeing) – junior boys 5-km cross-country, junior boys 10-km cross-country, junior boys short distance combined
- Evan Round, Yellowknife (wrestling) – boys 60-kg freestyle, boys 60-kg Inuit wrestling
- Paul Reid, Yellowknife (wrestling) – boys 70-kg freestyle