Nunavik’s 41 top athletes prepare for AWG
Fans must pay $3,500 each for seats on chartered plane to Alaska
KUUJJUAQ — Last December, more than 160 young athletes competed in regional trials for a place on Team Nunavik-Québec at the Arctic Winter Games.
Next week, the final slate of the region’s top 41 athletes, along with their coaches and team staff, will gather in Kuujjuaq to prep themselves mentally and physically for the AWG, which start up March 5 in Kenai, Alaska.
Nunavik, as a “guest contender” in the AWG, is limited to only 41 participating athletes, but, despite the relatively small size of its team, the region is entering Inuit and Dene games as well as badminton and snowshoeing competitions.
The Kativik Regional Government’s recreation director, Frankie Gordon, is confident that Team Nunavik-Québec will turn in good performances in Kenai.
“Our returning athletes are going to do well,” Gordon said. “And there are a lot of strong athletes from the regional trials.”
Team Nunavik-Québec athletes to watch this time include veterans in the Inuit Games William and Norman Saunders, as well as Aisa Pirti, Paul Beaulne and Deseray Cumberbatch.
At the last AWG held in Fort McMurray, Alberta, from Feb. 28 to March 6, 2004, athletes from Team Nunavik-Québec won a total of 16 “ulus” — that is, eight gold medals, four silver medals, and four bronze medals.
Gordon said Nunavik would like to enter even more competitions — he said Greenland waited 12 years before it became a full-fledged participant in the games and could send more athletes, so Nunavik may have to wait some time for this status in the AWG.
At the same time, AWG organizers are trying to reduce, rather than to increase, the number of athletes participating in the games.
“This is so the games in the future can be held in small communities, not just the large ones,” Gordon said.
Nunavik competed in the AWG in 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1986, but then dropped out until 2000. Since 2000, the region has participated in the AWG, at the same time building up a regional training and trials network, in collaboration with the Kativik School Board.
The KRG’s recreation department, which now organizes the region’s AWG participation, has a budget of about $400,000 for Kenai, not including the regional trials. Travel alone from Nunavik to Alaska is expected to cost $260,000 for the team.
Gordon said Kenai, which he’s visited several times as a “chef de mission,” should mount good games — but the weather may be even warmer than two years ago in Alberta.
Nunavik Creations designer Vicky Okpik designed the 2006 AWG blue and white outfits. The jackets will feature KRG, Makivik Corporation and Quebec logos.
Accompanying the athletes, coaches and staff is an official delegation, which includes cultural performers and VIPs.
The KRG will charter a First Air jet to fly athletes directly from Kuujjuaq to Kenai. Gordon said there is room for interested spectators to be included on this charter. There are 30 open seats, costing $3,500 from Kuujjuaq to Alaska, return.
For information on this charter and about the AWG, as well as for results for Team Nunavik-Quebec during the games, consult the KRG web site at www.nunavik.ca.