All in the family

Rankin sisters head to AWG with parents as coaches

Darrell Greer | RANKIN INLET
March 19, 2014

Darrell Greer

NNSL photo/graphic Sisters Ethel, left, and Patricia Ittinuar of Rankin Inlet are representing Nunavut on the mushing trails of the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska, this week. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

NNSL photo/graphic
Sisters Ethel, left, and Patricia Ittinuar of Rankin Inlet are representing Nunavut on the mushing trails of the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska, this week. – Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Nunavut is being represented on the dogmushing trail by a pair of sisters from Rankin Inlet at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Fairbanks, Alaska, this week.

Patricia, 15, and Ethel, 13, Ittinuar are racing in juvenile and junior, and are being coached by their mom and dad, Harry and Sally Ittinuar of Rankin.

Harry has 30 years experience mushing dogs.

He built two boxes to transport the dogs to Alaska, with the shop class at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik supplying the paint jobs.

Each box holds six dogs.

Harry said he owes thanks to Harry Towtongie for supplying the race sleds for the AWG, and to John Hickes and Page Burt for arranging for a veterinarian to come from Winnipeg to make sure the dogs were healthy and certified to cross the U.S.A. border.

He said his daughters have practised hard for the past two months and are ready for the challenge.

“Each has her own dog team, and I’ve been training them specifically for their AWG events,” said Harry.

“They’ll be doing sprint racing, with Patricia’s at 13 km and Ethel’s at 10 km.

“It’s a well-marked and groomed trail with handlers all-along it with snowmobiles in case something happens.

“Safety always comes first, especially with kids mushing these kinds of races.”

The girls must use standup race sleds in Alaska, instead of the ladder style they’re used to in Rankin.

Patricia, now in Grade 10, has been mushing since Grade 7, and said she’s very excited about competing at the AWG with her sister.

She said having her sister share the experience makes it even more special.

“It’s my first AWG and I’m happy to share the spotlight with Ethel because I don’t like being the centre of attention all the time,” said Patricia.

“I like the speed of mushing and being with the dogs.

“I have a pretty good coach, so I’m confident.

“I expect Alaska to be really big, with lots of people at the AWG, and, when I’m not mushing, I’m looking forward to meeting youth from around the North.”

Ethel, now in Grade 8, has been mushing since Grade 5 and said she couldn’t wait to compete at the AWG.

She said it’s really cool to be share the experience with her family.

“That’s a big reason I’ve been liking this so much, because I really enjoy working with my parents, my sister and the dogs,” said Ethel.

“It’s pretty cool to have Mom and Dad as coaches, and I don’t get nervous around the dogs at all.

“There will be lots exciting about the AWG, and I hope to make some new friends from different places, but I’m looking forward to the races more than anything.

“They’re number one to me, so I’m going to have fun and concentrate on doing what I can to win an ulu.”