Nunavut’s athletes aim for sportsmanship honours
“I think it’s the best award that you can get at the Games”
Watching the Olympics has become homework for Rebecca Rowan, a Grade 9 student from Cambridge Bay who will compete as a relay speed skater at the Arctic Winter Games next month.
She’s one of 211 athletes across Nunavut who are preparing to leave for the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska next Saturday.
For Rowan, who has speed skated for about two years, it’s her first athletic competition. She’s spent every other day for the past month training on the ice with her three teammates in Iqaluit. She also runs laps during lunch hour to get into shape. Watching television during the evening is the easy part.
She isn’t a sprinter on the ice, but going steady is what counts, she said. “ I can keep up a pace.”
She’d like to win, but she’s more interested in visiting somewhere new and making friends along the way, she said.
That’s the spirit that led Nunavut to win the Hodgson trophy in 2000 and 2004, which goes to the team that shows the most sportsmanship, according to Frank Tootoo, director of Sport Nunavut.
“I think it’s the best award you can get at the games,” he said. “I think that’s something we’re shooting for again.”
This is also the first year athletes have been allowed to try out for more than one sport, Tootoo said.
That means Grade 11 student Jon Neily from Iqaluit will have a chance to toss rocks on the curling rink, even though he didn’t make the cut for his favourite sport.
“ I didn’t make the soccer team,” he explained.
He’s excited to visit the United States for the first time, and maybe catch a glimpse of Alaska’s wildlife.
“I’d like to see a moose,” he said.
Over the past year parents and coaches were concerned athletes would need passports to cross the border into the United States. That’s now been resolved, said Tootoo, and the athletes can get by with photocopies of birth certificates, photo IDs and letters from parents.
Sport Nunavut has a travel budget of about $500,000 to fly athletes to the games this year, along with 50 coaches, 13 mission staff and eight cultural delegates.