And so ends another adventure of epic proportions for Team NWT.

I’m just trying to make it sound exciting.

No, it was the end of the Canada Summer Games on Sunday in Winnipeg and Team NWT is now home, safe and sound having made new friends, tried their best and all that other stuff. No medals – again – but we knew that going in. A medal at the Canada Winter Games is surprise enough but the summer version? We very nearly stopped the production process here at home office thanks to a swimmer by the name of Gabriel Leclerc.

Yellowknife’s top boys swimmer was the star of the show in week two and was our sole legitimate medal threat on Aug. 8 in the boys 50-metre breaststroke. He finished eighth but he made a medal event final, something we don’t see too much of North of 60. It was cause for 32 or so seconds of wonderment here at my desk, watching it on live stream and having the editors dripping with expectation.

Again, trying to make it sound exciting. It wasn’t. I merely turned to them after it was done and asked to proceed accordingly.

But it wasn’t just the fact that Leclerc made a medal final. He gave us a reason to be optimistic about results for a change. Every day, people would check up on the standings and see the customary NWT loss, either by shutout or by a lot to a little. We’re used to it, not that it makes it any better to swallow, but we’re not a naive bunch here.

Leclerc, though, changed the narrative for a few days. He raced against some of the big boys in Canadian swimming and held his own just fine, thank you very much. Toss in four B finals and that meant over the course of a week, Leclerc finished no worse than 16 th in five solo races. Jeremy Jaud would be proud and Leclerc’s stock for post-secondary swimming just got a hypodermic needle in the arm.

Leclerc got the chance to carry the flag into the closing ceremony on Sunday and really, who else could you pick? If you wanted to stretch it, you could have gone with Viktor Gutierrez simply because he scored a goal in boys soccer, which was really cool. That doesn’t happen often, if ever, and I wonder if head coach Huw Morris had a say about Gutierrez getting to be the flag bearer. Bill Othmer, Team NWT’s chef de mission, made everything final just before the ceremony and went into a meeting before making the announcement to let everyone know.

Here’s my artist’s rendition of how I think that all went down:

Othmer: “Okay, Gabriel Leclerc is our flag bearer and I think you know why. Convince me otherwise.”

Morris: “I think Viktor deserves a look. He scored a goal for us. In regulation time, I might add.”

Othmer: “But did he have a chance to win us a medal? Gabriel did. Do better than that, Huw.”

Morris: “Viktor scored a bloody goal! Did Gabriel score a goal in the pool? It’s not water polo!”

Othmer: “No, but he almost scored us a gold. I’m not convinced yet.”

Morris: “If this was downtown Prestatyn, I’d convince you.”

Welsh reference in that last line, there. Morris hails from Wales originally.

I must admit an error I made: I had written in NWT News/North that the girls volleyball team failed to win a game. What I forgot to add was “as of press time”. The girls did beat Yukon in their final game in straight sets, 3-0. If any of you fine young ladies spots me out and about, please let me have it because I deserve it.

If there was a medal to be given for all-around spirit, the girls volleyball team would be on the podium. It seemed like a non-stop party for those girls and how could you not get up for a game whenever they were around?

Out on the golf course, Deanne Whenham and Sebastian Toner were always going to be in tough. Whenham went into Winnipeg fresh off her gold medal at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto last month but this was the best young golfers in Canada. Top of the heap, if you will. She’s no quitter, though, and finished her final two rounds strong.

As for Toner, he was our best boys golfer and what was nice to see about him was his improvement every single round. You always want to improve and personal bests are important (thanks, Jane Mooney, for drilling that into my head). Toner shot better with each round and lowered his score each time. That’s what you want and if Toner had a dozen or so more rounds in Winnipeg, he would have challenged for a medal. Just kidding, Sebastian. You’re still a better golfer than I am.

So we still await that elusive first medal of any colour at the Canada Summer Games. That’s one grudge match we need to have with Yukon. They have eight and that’s a number we need to catch up to. Fast. Do we need to sit down and figure out how to change that? That’s up to Sport North, the folks in charge of the Team NWT operations. If they decide to do that, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, they come up with.

For now, let’s all take a breather and remember that we will taste success at the Arctic Winter Games in a few months time. On home soil, even. That’s because the speedskaters are returning. Hi-Yo!

Doesn’t take much to make that sound exciting.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...