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Athletes prepare for the Arctic Winter Games

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, November 19, 2009

DEH CHO - Young athletes across the Deh Cho are in training to prepare for the chance to represent the territory at the Arctic Winter Games.

NNSL photo/graphic

Tyler Lafferty, left, and William Alger of Fort Simpson are preparing for the snowshoe trials for the Arctic Winter Games. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

A total of 180 athletes from the Mackenzie region, which encompasses 17 communities, have signed up for the trials that will give them a chance to join Team NWT. The registration is up by 68 athletes from the 2008 numbers.

Ninety-eight of the athletes vying to compete at the March 2010 games in Grande Prairie are from the Deh Cho. They are trying out for a wide variety of sports including badminton, basketball, Dene Games, hockey, snowboarding, snowshoe biathlon, cross-country skiing, soccer, speed skating and snowshoeing.

To make Team NWT the athletes have to pass through at least one if not two sets of trials, said Val Gendron, the regional co-ordinator for the Mackenzie Region.

Regional trials will be held for sports where there are more participants than there are spots on the regional team. In the Mackenzie region these sports include juvenile male and female badminton, junior male Dene Games and soccer in the junior and juvenile male and juvenile female divisions. The other athletes will pass straight to the territorial trials.

The most popular sport in the region is juvenile female soccer. Twenty athletes are vying for the nine positions on the regional team, said Gendron.

The territorial trials will last into late January. The next territorial trial will be held in Hay River from Nov. 20 to 22 for cross-country skiing and snowshoe and ski biathlon. Athletes from Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson are expected to compete.

Athletes in many of the sports have already started training.

On Nov. 16 Tyler Lafferty and William Alger headed out for their first snowshoe run in Fort Simpson. The pair of 11-year-olds have two months to get ready for their territorials. Both agree that snowshoeing is a lot of fun.

Alger said he enjoys getting used to walking with the snowshoes strapped to his feet.

"Sometimes you fall down into the snow," he said.

Lafferty likes that snowshoes give you the ability to walk on deep snow instead of sinking. He decided to try out for the games just to be able to compete.

The Arctic Winter Games were first held in Yellowknife in 1970 and are hosted every second year. Nineteen sports are represented at the games.

This year the territory will be sending approximately 350 athletes, coaches and officials on Team NWT, said Doug Rentmeister, the executive director for Sport North, the organization that administers the team.

The games are all about allowing youth from Northern communities to compete in a multi-sport and multi-cultural event, said Rentmeister. Most of the circumpolar world is represented at the games with teams coming from as far away as Russia, Greenland and the Scandinavia (Sami people).

The athletes from different countries compete against each other at the games but also build lasting relationships, Rentmeister said.

The games are also good for sport development and personal development, said Gendron. Even if an athlete doesn't win an ulu - the name for the gold, silver and bronze medals handed out - they've built a foundation of good work ethics and habits, she said.

"I hope they'll have a good experience, ... so they'll keep doing sports in the future," said Gendron.

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