Iqaluit speed skater named Olympic role model


“It’s an honour and a bit of a burden”

Aqpik Peter, a skate in each hand, peers from beneath his ball cap.
He looks confident, but also slightly bemused, as if he wonders what all the fuss is about.

The fuss is about the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The Iqaluit speed skater is one of three models picked for the Find Your Passion in Sport poster series, designed by Olympics organizers to boost aboriginal interest and participation in the upcoming Winter Games.

First off, Peter accepts no credit for looking so cool in the Olympic poster.

“It was the photographer,” he said with a quiet chuckle. But Peter hopes his poster, along with equally slick posters featuring a First Nations snowboarder from British Columbia and a Métis biathlete from Quebec, gets Inuit kids more interested in sports.

“Hopefully it will inspire them to do better in their sports,” he said.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

Peter’s selection was part of a nationwide nomination process seeking accomplished young aboriginal athletes. Clean living and good character were key criteria.

All three posters place the young athletes in their home environment. Peter is photographed overlooking Frobisher Bay, sharply illuminated while his immediate surroundings are obscured. A handful of clouds float behind him through the September dusk.

Coming off three personal bests at the recent Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, Peter now finds himself thrust into the role of role model.

“It’s an honour and a bit of a burden,” said John Maurice, Peter’s coach. “Aqpik’s just a typical northern kid and sometimes it’s tough to be a really good athlete.”

“He’s had to work awfully hard to be a speed skater but he also has a lot of natural talent.”

Maurice said what’s impressive about Peter’s feats to date is that he’s been able to make a name for himself speed skating, despite inadequate training facilities (the corners in the Arnaitok arena are too tight for Peter to reach full speed) and limited fund-raising opportunities.

Government of Nunavut, Employment Opportunities

And while the stated goal of Olympic organizers is to see more aboriginal participation in the 2010 games, Peter himself is downplaying his odds of getting on Team Canada.

“I don’t know. Down south there are lots of high level athletes (who) pretty much train for a living,” he said.

So the plan for now is simply to go as fast as possible on the ice at the old arena where he trains three times a week, and then maybe head down south after high school for more intensive training.

The 2010 games are out, but Peter can always shoot for 2014.

He’s only 18, after all.

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