The Arctic Winter Games are set to happen in Wood Buffalo, Alta., in late January and the road to seeing who fills out Team NT’s roster is about to begin.
The territorial trials for most sports will kick off tomorrow with the majority of the action happening here in Yellowknife. Gymnastics, badminton, wrestling, curling, hockey, volleyball, basketball, speedskating, futsal, archery and cross-country skiing are happening in the capital. Dettah will play host to Dene games. Inuvik will have snowshoeing and Arctic sports. Hay River will hold trials for biathlon of the ski and snowshoe variety.
Snowboarding held its trials last year, while figure skating selected its team late last month and table tennis will have direct entry as all of the spots have been filled based on the number of entries received.
Bill Othmer, Team NT’s chef de mission, said it’s going to be one of the busiest weekends ever for sport in the NWT.
“We have 751 athletes from 25 communities registered,” he said. “We’re just putting the finishing touches on everything and we’re just hopeful weather will be on our side.”
Normally, the territorial trials are held in December and January, but because of the scheduling and the fact that these Games have already been pushed back a year, it’s a short window of opportunity, Othmer added.
“It’s a January Games and they’re happening six weeks after trials, so it’s going to be a fun but busy weekend,” he said.
Sport North looks after the travel for all athletes making their way into a community for their chosen trials and they begin their treks this afternoon. Athletes from Ulukhaktok and Aklavik will be meeting their flights in Inuvik, followed by the mass of planes making their way from communities all over the NWT. The big flights are scheduled to arrive in Yellowknife tomorrow from Inuvik (carrying athletes from the Beaufort Delta) and Norman Wells (Sahtu athletes).
Arctic sports athletes and snowshoers will be heading to Inuvik from Yellowknife on Thursday morning, while the athletes heading to Hay River for biathlon will leave in the evening.
“We could not have done this without the TSOs (territorial sport organizations) and their boards, they’ve all been phenomenal,” said Othmer. “We had five meetings as a group leading up to trials and I think we’re ready.”
One big change to the trials came in recent days with the announcement of the lifting of the Covid-19 vaccine requirement for anyone going to Wood Buffalo. That meant athletes who were denied the chance to compete because of a lack of vaccination were given a second chance to register to compete at trials.
Because the requirement was lifted after the original registration deadline for trials, Othmer said a small window of opportunity opened up for those who wanted in.
“We kept the phone numbers of those who we denied originally and we had about six who signed up,” said Othmer. “There was also the chance for people to back out because of the change, but it seems everyone still wants to try out.”
Anyone who wanted to back out would have been given a full refund of their registration payment, he added.
Most of the rosters should be ready to go by the time trials conclude on Saturday and Othmer said he’s hoping everyone enjoys themselves.
“It’s been three years since we’ve done this and it’s a bit sentimental for me,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone has a good experience over the time they’re competing. Our volunteers and communities deserve a big thank you because without them, this doesn’t happen.”