The cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) over fears of coronavirus has left many coaches, parents and young athletes brokenhearted across the Kivalliq.
It also left their coaches, who had put in so much time and energy in preparation for the Whitehorse event, deeply disappointed over missing the games, and deeply concerned over how the cancellation may affect their young athletes.
Team Nunavut bantam coach David Clark said telling his 14-year-old son he wasn’t going to be playing at the AWG was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.
He said he also felt bad for the kids who only had one chance to play in the AWG, and that was this year in Whitehorse.
“If you had told me when the AWG were cancelled that in a week’s time the NHL, NBA, MLB and Hockey Canada would all be shutdown, I would have laughed in your face,” said Clark.
“But, this is the world we live in and precautions had to be taken against this bug.
“You never think about something like this until it happens, and you hate to see so many deserving kids negatively affected by it.
“But when entire countries are shutting down because of this, then, obviously, the proper precautions have to be put in place to keep it from getting out of control in our country.”
Arviat’s Andrew Bell said it’s unfortunate and I feel bad that a lot of athletes are missing out on an event at the games.
Bell currently holds several AWG records including the open male one-hand reach which he set at 170.2 cm at the previous games in Fort Smith and the triple jump record which he set at 11.49 metres in Greenland in 2016.
The 34-year-old athlete has been specializing his training regime since the end of the last Games, with a focus on the two foot high jump. He was hoping to make a record attempt in Whitehorse but now he wonders if his window has passed.
“It is disappointing because I’m at a very high fitness level and I’m at the tail end of a peak in my training,” said Andrew Bell. “But I understand it’s a factor that’s out of my control.”
Kailee Karlik, 17, of Rankin Inlet was looking forward to representing Nunavut for a second and final time on the junior girls volleyball court when she got news the games had been cancelled.
She said the news of the cancellation left her devastated.
“It hit our whole team hard,” said Karlik. “We were all messaging each other on Facebook’s Messenger and everyone was upset because our team was so strong this year.
“We had practiced with each other for a long time and we were ready for the games.
“We really had a good chance to take a medal this year.”
Karlik said she fully understands the games were cancelled for safety reasons with so many people about to gather in one area either to play or watch one sport.
She said that didn’t make the news any less devastating, especially coming only a week before the games were set to begin.
“We were going to start a sort of Rankin Winter Games, and we were all looking forward to that, but it had to be cancelled too.
“The Nunavut territory has such a small population, but we were all so ready for the games.
“It was such a small group, but everyone helped each other.
“It’s really good to see people supporting each other, so I still see us as winners.”
Clark, who represented Nunavut in hockey at the Games as a youngster, point out that the AWG is about more than just competing. It’s also a chance for youth to meet fellow athletes from all over the world and experience new cultures.
“It’s pretty cool man. There’s a lot of different sports. It’s definitely pretty unique,” adding that he is still friends with people he met at his first games.
“It’s more than a Game. We all love the game but at the same time the things people don’t realize is the dressing room, the friends, the working together.”
– with files from Cody Punter