Speed skating, Arctic sports, Dene games and dog mushing are some of the NWT’s strongest sports if the Arctic Winter Games are any indication, and for the latter two, it’s a welcome surprise.
Last week in Fairbanks, Alaska, Team NWT took the most gold, silver and bronze medals in the four sports, and while the coaches and staff were expecting a strong showing in speed skating and Arctic sports, the Dene games and dog mushing results have left them surprised and delighted, said Team NWT’s AWG chef de mission, Doug Rentmeister.
“We’re really proud of a lot of traditional sports that we are showing medals in there that we normally didn’t place well in,” he told The Journal last Friday.
“What we are seeing is a real blend of all the sports. We are seeing some kids coming through with shining colours and we are exceptionally proud of all of the kids and what they are doing here at these games,” Rentmeister said.
Top NWT medalist Veronica McDonald from Fort Smith, participating in her fifth AWGs, once again dominated in the Arctic sport events by winning five medals, two gold in the two-foot high kick and triple jump, two silver in kneel jump and arm pull, and one bronze in the Alaskan high kick.
Fort Smith’s Ryan Tourangeau, a first-time AWG athlete, was named the top male competitor in the Dene games and medaled in three events. He took home the gold ulu for overall individual Dene games champion.
Snowshoer and biathlete Jared Blake, the first athlete on Team AWG from Tsiigehtchic and this year’s flag bearer at the opening ceremonies, also stood out during the games in his events, coming as close as fourth.
Dog mushing brought Team NWT several medals this year with Yellowknife’s Taylor Beck winning a silver and two bronze, Fort Smith’s Brandon Tuckey bringing home a gold and a bronze and Zack Campbell a gold and silver.
Dominique Bennett and Lauren Eggenberger, both junior speedskaters from Yellowknife, each raked in five gold medals in their sport, while Daphné Cloutier took two golds in juvenile speed skating.
Team NWT wrestlers also saw remarkable results and brought home 10 medals for the territory.
Rentmeister said the NWT should be proud of all 271 of its young athletes who were enthusiastic and well-behaved throughout the games.
He noted that this year likely saw the largest number of NWT parents attend the games thanks, in part, to a private charter for parents organized by Hay River mother Louise Schumann.
“When you’re seeing your parents up in the stands supporting and yelling for you, that’s a huge, huge support,” Rentmeister said.
Social media kept home connected
Social media sites Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with AWG activity over the course of the games with many teams posting official updates and athletes themselves keeping followers at home apprised of their activities in Fairbanks.
Rentmeister called social media a “key piece” of the games this year in that it allowed fans back home to show constant support for the athletes.
“It allows the kids to be connected with people at home, those that couldn’t make the trip. They can connect with them on how well they are doing and sharing the day to day stuff,” he said.