At the tender age of two, Robin Clegg was introduced to cross-country skiing by his parents, who were eager to get their children outdoors even in frigid Yellowknife winters.
Little did they know that Clegg would use those skills he learned as a toddler to carve out his own successful career as a biathlon competitor, taking his passion for the sport all the way to multiple world championships and the Olympics, not once, but three times.
For all his accomplishments, Clegg, now 37 and living in Canmore, Alta., was one of the few athletes honoured this year with an induction into the NWT Sport Hall of Fame in a ceremony on Nov. 22, an annual event where the NWT Sport Federation takes time to recognize excellence in sport and athletics that bring honour to the territory.
“I’ve always sort of identified myself as a Northerner and to be inducted into the NWT Sports Hall of Fame is incredibly special,” Clegg said in an interview with The Journal. “I know the other inductees and I never really considered myself that good of an athlete, so I’m super humbled.”
Clegg was born and raised in Yellowknife until he moved to Ottawa when he was around 10 years old. His father remained in the NWT, allowing the young athlete to stay connected with his hometown throughout his teenage years.
“When I heard about the induction I was so surprised because obviously I’d moved away at a young age, but I’ve always stayed in touch and I’ve always considered myself a Northerner,” Clegg said. “I grew up there and started skiing there and sort of developed my love of the outdoors there.”
It was while he was a teenager in the nation’s capital that Clegg developed his love for biathlon.
“It was close to Canada Games time, so around ‘94-’95, and there was a lot of opportunity that biathlon had for a young athlete in terms of training centres, national teams, traveling, international events, stuff like that,” he said. “It was very appealing, obviously, and as well as a teenager getting to play with rifles and guns, it was pretty exciting.”
Clegg would go on to win two silver medals in the 1995 Canada Winter Games, solidifying his love of the sport and kicking off a 15-year career.
“All along the way there were always these little moments or events that were pretty exciting,” Clegg said.
Over the course of his career, Clegg has demonstrated his skills on the national and international circuits. He is a 10-time Canadian Biathlon Champion, and in the 2002-03 season, claimed a silver medal at the European Cup.
He competed individually and in team relays at three different Olympic Games: in Salt Lake City in 2002, Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. It was at the final games where he claimed his highest accolades, placing 10th with his relay team.
Shortly after the Vancouver Olympics, Clegg decided to switch things up and take on cycling as a new sport. While out for a ride in 2012, he was hit by a car that left him with numerous injuries, including several broken bones.
“To this day everything is pretty jarred up. I tried to make a run at the Sochi Olympics last year for biathlon but I didn’t have quite the strength that I used to have, and even to this day it’s still pretty sore,” Clegg said. “I was in pretty intense physio for a couple of years and now I’m just waiting to see what the next steps are.”
While he misses competing, Clegg said he enjoys having time to spend with his son Alexander who, at 18 months old, is almost the same age as Clegg was when he started skiing.
“The way I was put into it, it was never really forced upon me. I just enjoyed doing it and I think my parents made sure I had a lot of fun doing it when I was young. That’s what I’m going to try to do with him; I’ll introduce it to him and if he has fun and wants to continue then for sure I’ll support him.”
The 1994 junior men’s curling team, made up of Jamie and Kevin Koe and Kevin and Mark Whitehead, were inducted into the NWT Sports Hall Of Fame. All of the players have continued to compete in the sport, some even making it to the Brier Cup several times over.
Laurell Graf was also inducted for her role in developing badminton as a sport in the NWT and for her tireless efforts as a coach.