Ulus a-plenty for Team Nunavut

A total of 43 and counting so far at 2016 Arctic Winter Games

James McCarthy | Nuuk, Greenland
March 10, 2016
James McCarthy/NNSL photo Marcus Kokak of Kugluktuk concentrates on his serve during table tennis action at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games on March 8.

James McCarthy/NNSL photo
Marcus Kokak of Kugluktuk concentrates on his serve during table tennis action at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games on March 8.

Seems the loss of a few sports hasn’t hurt the ulu count for Nunavut at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games.

By the end of Thursday, Nunavut’s best and brightest had won 43 ulus – four gold, 15 silver and 24 bronze – good enough for fifth place in the ulu standings. Alaska was far and away the top team with 170.

Arctic sports athlete Drew Bell of Arviat won a gold ulu in open men’s triple jump and followed that up with three silvers in kneel jump, one-hand reach and head pull. The other gold uluit were Chesterfield Inlet’s Dion Tanuyak in junior boys Alaskan high kick, Rankin Inlet’s Dennis Panika in junior boys arm pull and Iqaluit’s Matilda Pinksen in junior girls Inuit wrestling, 65 kg weight class. She won every one of her matches on the day and topped her division after the round-robin event to win top spot.

“I just think I have a bit more experience.”
-Matilda Pinksen

Pinksen certainly made it look easy on her way to victory but she didn’t think it was ease that won her gold.

“I just think I have a bit more experience than the other wrestlers did,” she said. “I think the other wrestlers were doing it for the first time and I’ve done it before in Fairbanks (2014 AWG).”

James McCarthy/NNSL photo Matilda Pinksen of Iqaluit, left, gets set for her Inuit wrestling match against an Alberta North opponent at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland on March 10.

James McCarthy/NNSL photo
Matilda Pinksen of Iqaluit, left, gets set for her Inuit wrestling match against an Alberta North opponent at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland on March 10.

Inuit wrestling is much different than freestyle wrestling in that the competitors begin the match by wrapping their arms around each other and locking hands. Once the referee begins the match, the goal is to take your opponent to the mat by using the upper body. Using the hips to throw an opponent, which is legal in freestyle, is forbidden as is re-establishing the grip. If a wrestler loses his or her grip, the referee stops the bout.

In male Inuit wrestling, the competitors are on their feet but in the female version, they begin on their knees. Not that it bothers Pinksen, but she doesn’t know why the female wrestlers can’t be upright.

“I wish I knew, but I wouldn’t mind trying it,” she said.

This was Pinksen’s second Games as a wrestler, and will be her last as a wrestler. She’ll be too old to compete when the Games head to the NWT in 2018, but that isn’t stopping her from sticking around in some capacity with Team Nunavut.

“I’d like to be a mission staff member one day,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get into coaching but I don’t want to stay away. This has been such an awesome experience for me and I want to stay in it somehow.”