If you thought you’d miss out on the 2023 Arctic Winter Games because you’d be too old, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
The Games’ International Committee announced on Aug. 31 that it has approved a motion keeping the age categories where they would have been for the original 2022 edition in Fort McMurray, Alta. That means youth athletes who would have aged out when the Games happen in January 2023 will still be able to play.
In a statement announcing the decision, John Flynn, the committee’s president, stated that the move was made after talking with the chefs de mission from all nine participating jurisdictions.
“We considered both the chefs and their sport organizations’ critical feedback and we analysed the potential effects that changing the sport age categories could have,” he said. “We came to the conclusion to maintain the draft 2022 technical packages’ years of birth was the fairest situation for the youth participants.”
The 2022 Games were originally supposed to happen this coming March but were pushed back due to concerns over where the pandemic would be at that point.
Sport North president Colin Pybus said the federation took its lead from the territorial sport organizations (TSO) which participate in the Games and they were given two options to consider.
“One was to roll on as normal with the age categories staying put and the other was extend the age groups by one year,” he said. “They gave us their feedback on how we should proceed and we gave the international committee our decision based on that.”
It wasn’t a unanimous decision, he added, with TSOs on both sides of the fence.
“There was some divided opinion among the membership but the majority wanted to move ahead with the one-year extension,” he said. “It gives the athletes a chance to not miss out on 2023.”
Something else the sports groups need to keep in mind is the timing of the 2023 Games as the Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown are scheduled to start just two weeks following the completion of the AWG.
Pybus said there hasn’t been any talk about with the TSOs about how to fill out rosters with the closeness in mind.
“The TSOs will make their decisions based on what they want,” he said. “There may be some similarities between rosters but I think there’s a wait-and-see approach on what the Canada Winter Games age categories will look like before there’s any movement on that front.”
And just to pile on, there will be the amount of potential time missed in the classroom, which is a worry for Pybus, an educator himself who’s the vice-principal at East Three Secondary in Inuvik.
“That’s a reality families will have to face,” he said. “Attending these events is a wonderful opportunity but we’ve gone through various forms of school disruption for the better part of the past 18 months. It may be a tough choice for families on whether they let their child take part.”
Add to that the costs involved, he added.
“Fundraising comes into play because it isn’t cheap to travel to support the athletes,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of money in a short amount of time and families are probably going to have to make some tough decisions about what to do.”
But even with all of that, Pybus said he’s confident everything will work out for everyone.
“I have full confidence in the TSOs that they will do whatever they can to make things work,” he said. “They’re a great group and are more than capable. They’ve always pulled up their socks when the time has called for it and we’ll do what we can within Sport North to help the athletes succeed.”