Team NWT kicks to gold

Traditional sports lead the way for territory at 2016 Arctic Winter Games

James McCarthy | Nuuk, Greenland
March 10, 2016
Casey Lessard/NNSL photo Team NWT took female hockey gold Thursday night with a 5-1 win over Alberta North in Iqaluit.

Casey Lessard/NNSL photo
Team NWT took female hockey gold Thursday night with a 5-1 win over Alberta North in Iqaluit.

It was expected to be a struggle for Team NWT at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games this time around.

After all, no speedskating meant the ulu count wouldn’t look as good, as in past years speedskating had provided around one-third of the uluit for Team NWT.

But the Arctic sports and Dene games squads have made sure things haven’t gone horribly in Greenland.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo Nuuk, Greenland - March 10, 2016 - Inuvik's Julienne Chipesia on her way to a silver medal in the 2.5 km Mass Start Juvenile Female snowshoe biathlon.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo
Nuuk, Greenland – March 10, 2016 – Inuvik’s Julienne Chipesia on her way to a silver medal in the 2.5 km Mass Start Juvenile Female snowshoe biathlon.

By end of day Thursday, NWT had nine gold medals, including girls hockey and Kea Furniss in snowshoe, and a total of 33 uluit. The other seven gold ulus have come through traditional sports. The Arctic sports athletes won three of those medals courtesy of Jemra Gruben of Tuktoyaktuk in the junior girls Alaskan high kick and Underwood Day of Inuvik, who snagged two gold ulus in the junior boys two-foot high kick and the kneel jump.

Day said he’s quite proud of the achievement.

“I wanted to bring everything to the show and I did,” he said.

The Dene games crew won the other four gold ulus and they came in finger pull and snow snake. Dalton Beamish of Fort Smith was a winner in the junior boys finger pull while Kayleigh Hunter of Fort Resolution equalled that feat in the juvenile girls event. The Aklavik duo of Cassandra Paul and Holly Archie were the snow snake winners as Archie won the junior girls edition and Paul captured the juvenile girls division.

Archie threw the snake 90.51 metres, nearly 27 metres better than the runner-up, on her way to victory and a new official world record in the process.

Archie said she was shocked when she was told she had the set the new mark.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it, just amazing.”

Archie was so confident in her ability that she was expecting to win gold and set a new world record.

“I practised every day for weeks before coming,” she said.

The conditions for snow snake have to be just right with a firm snow base and it was perfect for Archie.

“It had to be firm,” she said.

There were plenty of silver ulu performances, such as Julienne Chipesia of Inuvik in snowshoe biathlon, finishing second in the juvenile girls 2.5 km mass start event, and Matthias Steiner of Tsiigehtchic, also in snowshoe biathlon, with his second place finish in the juvenile boys 3 km individual event. The boys hockey team earned silver Thursday evening.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo Nuuk, Greenland - March 10, 2016 -Tsiigehtchic's Matthias Steiner managed to find his target despite blustery weather when he took second place in the juvenile boys 3 km individual snowshoe biathlon.

Walter Strong/NNSL photo
Nuuk, Greenland – March 10, 2016 -Tsiigehtchic’s Matthias Steiner managed to find his target despite blustery weather when he took second place in the juvenile boys 3 km individual snowshoe biathlon.