NWT judoka brings silver home from Canada Games

NWT judoka brings silver home from Canada Games
Judo sensei Mario Desforges, left, with judoka Brent Betsina, who took home the silver medal for the 100+ kg judo competition, the only medal for Team NWT in the Canada Winter Games.Photo: Team NWT.

Team NWT exited the closing ceremonies of the 2015 Prince George Canada Winter Games Sunday evening with pride, led by flag-bearer and the team’s only medalist, Brent Betsina from N’dilo.

As the first Team NWT athlete to win a medal at the games since Olympian biathlete Brendan Green captured gold for cross-country skiing in 2007, 18 year-old Betsina became a shining example for the team with his silver in the men’s over 100 kg category; an underdog who could achieve anything with determination, hard work and a little bit of hope.

“We’re very proud of Brent,” said coach Mario Deforges, Betsina’s sensei for the last eight years. “Second place is very good. The competition was very strong.”

Betsina was the only NWT judo participant in competition last week, which marked the second time NWT competed in the sport. Deforges hopes the win inspires up-and-coming judokas to enter future games, and that Betsina’s strong performance will influence other circumpolar competitions, like the Arctic Winter Games, to consider including judo as a sport in the future.

Though she was wearing a Team Yukon uniform, Fort McPherson-raised cross -country skier Annah Hanthorn also brought pride to the NWT when she medaled in the 7.5 km classic ski competition, nabbing the gold.

Nordic sport enthusiasts in the territory shared an outpouring of support for Hanthorne over social media, while the GNWT took time out of their daily session on Feb. 24 to recognize her in the Legislative Assembly.

“We share in her accomplishments as her roots are in the Northwest Territories,” said Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr. “Her younger brother is competing for Team NWT. Judah Hanthorn is at the Games for cross-country skiing, and her mother, Lynn Hanthorn, is a manager for Team NWT cross-country skiing. So, with a family gathering, this was a wonderful experience to share for Annah. Fort McPherson is a very proud and excited community celebrating the success of Annah and her gold medal achievement.”

One of the top performing teams in the second week of the games was the women’s curling team, who finished 10th with four wins out of nine games total, despite only having three players.

“Our lead unfortunately hurt her knee the night before we left for the Canada Winter Games,” said coach Nick Saturnino. “They’ve been playing really well, we’ve been working on our consistency and everything came together.”

After the regular round games, the team was hoping to place seventh and gave it their all on the ice.

“The kids are having a great time and they’re enjoying the experience and they’re really enjoying the competition,” Saturnino said from B.C. last week. “We were just trying to have our best performance every game and they’ve been playing really well and that’s kind of going all season long.”

It was a hard set of games for Team NWT, which also entered competitors in squash, badminton, men’s hockey, cross country and figure skating this week. With entertainment every evening, a chance to meet fellow athletes from across Canada and an opportunity to explore a new region of the country, Team NWT finished the 2015 games with a sense of optimism.

The next Canada Winter Games will be held in Red Deer, Alta. in 2019.

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