Nunavik snowshoers brave cold temperatures, fox at AWG

Coach says he’s ‘very impressed’ with team

Penina Alasuak (10) of Team Nunavik competes in the 100-metre snowshoe race in the female 2003 or later category at the Arctic Winter Games on Wednesday. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

By Madalyn Howitt

It’s to be expected that a sports competition called the Arctic Winter Games is going to face some cold weather.

That’s exactly what Nunavik’s snowshoeing athletes had to battle Wednesday on the field at Father Mercredi High School in Wood Buffalo, Alta.

Temperatures in the morning dropped to around -40 C with the windchill. It was so cold that a sun dog — where a halo forms around the sun after sunlight reflects off ice crystals in the air — was visible in the clear blue sky above the snowshoeing track.

Mosusie Usuituayuk (8) finishes the 100-metre snowshoe race in the male 2003 or later category at the Arctic Winter Games, after taking a tumble out of the starting gate. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

At one point, the races paused for a moment as a fox ran across the field.

It was bitingly cold on the track, but Team Nunavik snowshoer Penina Alasuak, 17, wasn’t letting that ruin her good time at the Games.

“It’s been great and very hard. I’m enjoying it,” she said of the chilly temperatures.

Alasuak has been involved in various sports throughout her life, but recently picked up snowshoeing. Her first official competition is here this week at the Arctic Winter Games.

The best part about snowshoeing is the race itself, she said.

“I like running, going fast,” she smiled.

Of the five sports Nunavik is competing in at these games, its athletes are going head-to-head with Nunavut in four of them: Arctic sports, Dene games, badminton and table tennis.

But the long-distance and short-distance snowshoe races are all Nunavik’s domain this year.

Team Nunavik’s snowshoe team poses for a photo at Centrefire Place in Wood Buffalo after finishing Wednesday’s races. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt).

Alasuak competed in the 100-metre race in the female 2003 or later category but results haven’t been released yet.

She also competed in the female 2003 or later 5-kilometre cross-country snowshoe race and finished sixth.

Coach Émile Maheu has a background in cross-country skiing but is coaching snowshoeing for the first time this year.

He said coaching the team has been “amazing” so far.

“We’re all learning a little bit right now, but they all did amazing performances and won numerous medals,” he said.

“They are very positive. Some athletes, their snowshoes fell off their feet, but they are finishing the race. I’m very impressed with them. They are teaching me a lot about sportsmanship,” he said.

Due to cold weather, several of the snowshoe races had to be postponed from Wednesday until Friday when temperatures were expected to be warmer.

A medal ceremony was set for Friday and final race results will be posted this weekend, where Nunavik is expected to earn multiple medals.

So far, Nunavik has won two medals in snowshoeing, both in the 2.5-km cross-country competitions: Daisy Nappaluk won silver in the female 2007 or later category, and Kylian Souliere won bronze in the male 2007 or later division.


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