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History in the making
Learning experience for curlers at first national championship

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nunavut made its first appearance at a national curling championship this past week in Fort McMurray, Alta.

NNSL photo/graphic

Skip David Kakuktinniq delivers a stone as third Arthur Siksik readies his broom during the Canadian Junior Curling Championship in Fort McMurray this past week. - photo courtesy of Lulu Photography

The junior boy's team from Rankin Inlet and the junior girl's team from Iqaluit represented the territory for the first time at the 2013 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

The event was held in Fort McMurray's Suncor Community Leisure Centre at MacDonald Island Park.

A new format was used this year which saw the 14 teams divided into two pools of seven, with seeding based on the winloss records at the Canadian Juniors over the past three years.

Rankin coach Kevin Bussey said the teams played a round robin within their pool to advance, with the three teams (including Nunavut) that didn't qualify for the championship round playing a seeding pool to determine rankings for the 2014 Canadian Juniors in Liverpool, N.S.

He said the nonplayoff teams also participated in a mixeddoubles competition.

"Several of our games were close at the beginning, but what we have to look at is the fact the boys improved their curling abilities exponentially during the week," said Bussey.

"The boys improved dramatically there.

"But, to keep this in perspective, the other teams played anywhere from about 50 to 100 competitive games this year, while we played none, and some of them have been at this event for the past seven years.

"It would be like Rankin's hockey team playing the Pittsburgh Penguins."

Bussey said there were some big crowds at the event and both Nunavut teams got a lot of attention.

He said the opposing coaches were shocked to learn the Rankin boys have only been curling, in some cases, for the past four weeks.

"The boys are always positive, so they took their losses and learned a lot from the other teams.

"I was told all sorts of good things about them by the opposing coaches and a couple of executives from the Canadian Curling Association who were very impressed by them."

The difference in the quality of curling ice between Fort McMurray and Rankin Inlet was a huge disadvantage to the Rankin boys.

The players agreed if you used the same weight in Fort McMurray for a draw shot that you do in Rankin, you'd almost put the rock through the back of the building.

Lead Darren Makkigak, 18, said he had a lot of fun in Fort McMurray.

He said it was very exciting to play against different provinces in a professional atmosphere.

"I was really impressed by the skill levels of some of the curlers on the other teams," said Makkigak.

"They really know what they're doing.

"I wouldn't mind trying this (curling) again next year to see how much better I can get."

Team second Arthur Siksik, 17, said it was incredible to watch some of the shots the other teams continuously made.

He said the talent level was almost unbelievable.

"I was nervous going into every draw because the atmosphere was so amazing," said Siksik.

"Playing against the best curlers in the world was the highlight for me.

"I hope our ice gets better in Rankin, so we can learn the proper weights to put into our shots.

"That was big disadvantage for us because we were all throwing too hard."

Team third Jamie Airut, 19, said he enjoyed the week, big time.

He said the junior championship was a pretty awesome experience.

"I also got to go skiing for the first time in my life there, and that was the most fun I had during the whole week," said Airut.

"I agree we really have to improve with our draw weight if we're ever going to be more competitive against these teams.

"We tried to read the ice a little bit as the games went on, and we were slowly starting to get the hang of it.

"The other players were pretty respectful and they all seemed glad we were there."

Rankin skip David Kakuktinnuq, 19, said many of the players on the other teams were like real professionals.

He said the Rankin curlers picked up a lot from the other teams, and they didn't mind sharing their secrets.

"They were all really friendly and they gave us a lot of tips and advice," said Kakuktinnuq.

"That's really going to help us a lot in the future with our curling.

"At first they seemed to be a lot more scared of us than we were of them, but they quickly realized we weren't very experienced curlers.

"I'd like to get more people interested in curling in Rankin so, maybe, we could become real competition for those teams in a few years."

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