Ulu wins continue in Greenland

Team NWT hitting the podium at 2016 Arctic Winter Games

James McCarthy | Nuuk, Greenland
March 9, 2016

Slowly but surely, Team NWT has found some success at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.

End of day Wednesday, the team had hit the podium 22 times – five gold, five silver and 12 bronze – good enough for sixth place in the ulu standings. [Editor’s note: these numbers have been updated to end of Wednesday, but the list published on the AWG website doesn’t include two medals mentioned later in this article.]

James McCarthy/NNSL photo Kea Furniss keeps her focus on the race ahead during the juvenile mixed 4 x 400 metre snowshoe relay at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland on Wednesday.

James McCarthy/NNSL photo
Kea Furniss keeps her focus on the race ahead during the juvenile mixed 4 x 400 metre snowshoe relay at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland on Wednesday.

Two of those medals came courtesy of Kea Furniss in snowshoe. Furniss was a silver uluit in the juvenile girls 2.5 km cross-country event on Tuesday and added a bronze in the 4 x 400 metre juvenile mixed relay on Wednesday.

Furniss ran the anchor leg in the relay, a position normally reserved for the fastest member of the team and she joked that there was no pressure at all.

“It was the coach’s decision,” she said. “They told me if I wanted to change, I could but I told them that’s fine.”

The conditions on Wednesday were like night and day with Tuesday featuring blizzard-like conditions and poor visibility while Wednesday was clear and sunny with just a touch of a breeze.

“It was really nice out there today (Wednesday),” said Furniss. “We were just running laps of a track so it was pretty simple.”

This is Furniss’ second Arctic Winter Games; she was in cross-country skiing two years ago in Fairbanks, Alaska and tried out for biathlon ski this time around. She didn’t make the team which precipitated the move to snowshoe.

It was a natural move for her.

“I decided to try it because I like running,” she said. “It’s a lot different than just plain running, that’s for sure. It’s a different technique and it’s not as easy as it looks.”

One of the other big Yellowknife winners is Spencer Littlefair in ski biathlon. Littlefair was two-for-two in the ulu column in his races as of press time, picking up a silver medal on Wednesday in the juvenile boys 4 km sprint and a bronze in the juvenile boys 5 km individual event. He originally finished fourth in that one but was bumped up to the bronze medal position after a jury decision.

“I’m thinking I may go for four (ulus).”
-Spencer Littlefair

He said the goal was to get three ulus but now he’s thinking big.

“I’m thinking I may go for four (ulus),” he said. “My best race was the silver medal one because I knew what I was doing and I knew how hard I could go. It was a test to see how good the lines were.”

Littlefair will race in the 5 km mass start and the 3 x 3 km juvenile mixed relay.

His success hasn’t come without a spot of trouble in his rifle, perhaps the most important piece of equipment a biathlete has.

“On Tuesday, the barrel froze up and I couldn’t close my bolt and I had to use the spare rifle,” he said. “It’s always a bummer when you have to use the spare rifle.”

James McCarthy/NNSL photo Laura Hodgins heads around the turn to complete her first lap during the junior girls 10 km mass start cross-country skiing event at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland on Wednesday.

James McCarthy/NNSL photo
Laura Hodgins heads around the turn to complete her first lap during the junior girls 10 km mass start cross-country skiing event at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland on Wednesday.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the boys basketball team needed a big win in order to secure top spot in the ulu round. Needing a 34-point win or better, Team NWT went out and beat Yukon, 89-53 – a 36-point victory – and getting the coveted no. 1 seed and a match-up with Nunavut in the semifinal Thursday night.

In futsal, the intermediate girls squad hit the floor against Yukon after their huge 1-0 upset win over Greenland on Tuesday and it seemed as if they left a bit out on the court from the day before, dropping a 3-0 decision. The junior girls sneaked into the semifinals even after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Alaska on Wednesday. Greenland’s 5-0 loss to Yukon meant the NWT advanced on a better goal differential.

The juvenile girls ended up in third place after dropping their final round-robin affair to Alberta North, 3-2. They will play Greenland Thursday to see who would go for gold on Friday. The juvenile boys slipped into the semifinals with no wins but two ties were good enough to see them through to play Greenland on Thursday.