This year’s Team NWT roster for the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Fairbanks, Alaska should see a mixed bag in terms of representation from across the territory, according to officials with the Sport North Federation.
With the majority of the territory’s population and organized sports, Yellowknife naturally has the upper hand when it comes to qualifying for major sporting events as NWT representatives, including this year’s AWG in Fairbanks, Alaska.
While Yellowknife is still expected to dominate the roster in terms of representation, the AWG’s chef de mission Doug Rentmeister said he expects an increase in numbers of athletes coming from the surrounding communities this time around in the individual sport categories.
“We should see a lot more communities represented…because there are a lot more individual sports being played,” he told The Journal.
Trials for most of those individual sports, which include Arctic sports, Dene games, dog mushing, gymnastics, snowboarding, speed skating, badminton and wrestling, have yet to take place and are scheduled for later in the month.
Those sports, especially Dene games and Arctic sports, tend to see greater numbers of community representation, according to Sport North.
Team sports, which had their qualifiers done by mid-December, are once again dominated by Yellowknife athletes, with the exception of a few. The male volleyball team is almost entirely composed of athletes from Fort Smith, while the male curling team will hail from Hay River. The girls’ curling team is forged from athletes from Inuvik and Fort McPherson.
Basketball, soccer and women’s volleyball are almost, if not completely, made up of Yellowknifers, though hockey, which has a higher rate of participation than some other sports outside of Yellowknife, has resulted in more of a mixed bag with respect to Team NWT’s roster. The male bantam and midget teams along with the female team contain a solid mix of players from Yellowknife, the Beaufort Delta and the South Slave.
Individual sports like biathlon, as predicted by Rentmeister, are already showing a much greater degree of variety in representation. Both ski and snowshoe biathletes are coming largely from Hay River, with others from Aklavik, Fort Good Hope, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson.
Cross country skiing features the odd Fort McPherson athlete, as well, mixed in among its primarily Yellowknife-based roster, and figure skating has seen a split between Yellowknife and Inuvik.
Rentmeister attributed some of the increased community participation to additional effort and financing by Sport North.
“We…make a conscious effort to try to get as many ‘non tax based’ athletes at a level that they can compete with the ‘tax based athletes,’” he said in an email. “For these games we even went as far as to allocate specific funds to territorial sport organizations to prepare ‘non tax based’ athletes for each set of territorial trials.”
Still, Rentmeister said, the composition of athletes on Team NWT varies from year to year.
“In some games we have a significant number of ‘non tax based’ athletes; some games not,” he said.
For a full list of Team NWT’s roster to date and trial schedules, visit https://sportnorth.com/our-programs/team-nwt/arctic-winter-games