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Final preparations underway for Team NT at 2024 Arctic Winter Games

Kyra McDonald led Team NT into the 2023 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremonies in Wood Buffalo, Alta. NNSL file photo

We are officially two weeks out from the start of the 2024 Arctic Winter Games in Mat-Su Borough, Alaska, and most of the heavy lifting has been done already.

The job now for Rita Mercredi is tying everything down and making sure the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed.

Team NT’s chef de mission is busy getting the last few things done before the charters head west beginning on March 9. A total of 355 athletes, coaches, chaperones and mission staff will board the planes to march in to the opening ceremony the following day, March 10.

“We’re getting the clothing distributed, finalizing our rosters, making sure passports are in order and confirming our arrivals and departures for the opening ceremony,” said Mercredi. “I’ve been talking with the host society about all the information on our numbers and anything they have to tell us, which we pass on to our people.”

Three charters will be making the trip, and they’ll all depart from Yellowknife Airport. The team will muster in the capital, but some athletes will arrive in the city earlier as some sports will be hosting pre-games camps.

The officials from the NWT won’t be flying over with the team as there wasn’t enough room on the charters. Instead, they’ll be flying with the folks from Team Nunavut, who were able to find some space for them on one of their charters. Athletes from the Kitikmeot region will also be gathering in Yellowknife to pick up a ride from the Nunavut charters, along with the territory’s futsal teams as they’ll be taking part in a training camp.

“It’s great that Nunavut was able to open up some space for our officials,” said Mercredi. “We always try to bring officials to support the Games and our charters were full, unfortunately. It’s an example of teams working together.”

It’s a quick turnaround for the team; the 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta., were a little more than one year ago. Toss in the 2023 Canada Winter Games and 2023 North American Indigenous Games and you can see what everyone’s been up against.

Mercredi said the tight timing has kept everyone busy.

“I feel for anyone who’s involved because there was’t much downtime from the last Games,” she said. “Our TSOs (territorial sport organizations) basically had to get right back in and start assessing athletes for this year. I wasn’t worried about whether there would be any problems, but just that we were rushed because of that.”

Team NT will be competing in every sport except alpine skiing. That’s a total of 19 all together and while Mecredi knows the team as a whole will do awesome, she didn’t want to go out on a limb and make any bold predictions about ulu counts.

“Ulus are gravy as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “The athletes have been training hard and our coaches do an amazing job to develop them. I’m sure they’re all excited and it won’t take long for them to get into the groove. They’ll have a great time, they’ll excel, but I’m not going to make any promises about how many ulus we’ll win.”