Parents, premier cheer on Nunavut curlers at Arctic Winter Games

Games a ‘profound’ experience for Nunavut athletes, Akeeagok says

Team Nunavut curlers Naja Ejesiak, left, Sophia MacDonald and Aubrey Sheppard compete against Team Alberta North on Monday at MacDonald Island Park at the Arctic Winter Games. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

By Madalyn Howitt

It was a family affair as Team Nunavut entered its second day of competition at the Arctic Winter Games. 

Both the female and male curling teams battled on the ice against Team Alberta North early Monday morning at MacDonald Island Park in Wood Buffalo, Alta. 

Parents of the athletes gathered in the chilly arena to support their team, who were sporting eye-catching yellow and red flame-print jackets. 

Jeff MacDonald was there to watch his daughter Sophia MacDonald. Curling runs in their family — Sophia’s older sister, Kaitlin MacDonald, is also on Team Nunavut and will compete in February at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian national women’s championship. 

Kirt Ejesiak smiled and cheered as Nunavut’s female curling team hurried hard and swept the ice, but said watching his daughter Naja Ejesiak compete is “nerve-wracking.” 

Kyle Sheppard, who travelled from Iqaluit, agreed, saying watching his daughter Aubrey Sheppard curl on the ice is “fun, stressful, nerve-wracking and exciting.” 

“It’s kind of a whole range of emotions I think we’re gonna get through this week,” he said with a laugh. 

Team Nunavut ultimately lost the match 16-0 (the male team also lost their match 15-1), but Aubrey didn’t let that dim her excitement about being at the games. 

“I feel pretty good. I was hoping for just one point, but not all good things happen,” she said. 

Aubrey has been curling for about five years, but said the Arctic Winter Games is her first competition. 

“It’s really exciting being here,” she said. 

Premier P.J. Akeeagok watches Team Nunavut’s curling teams on Monday at the Arctic Winter Games alongside parents of some of the competitors. From left to right: Kyle Sheppard, Akeeagok, Kirt Ejesiak and Jeff MacDonald. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

Aside from competing in several more matches throughout the week, Aubrey said she’s looking forward to meeting other people at the games and having fun this week.

“And not having school,” she said. 

Also watching the game was Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok. It was the first curling game that Akeeagok had ever watched live. 

“It’s an interesting game, it’s very strategic,” he said.

The premier will be catching the action of the Games all week and said the energy so far has been “electrifying.”

“It’s profound right? With Nunavut having so many isolated communities, sport is really something important,” he said. 

Watching Nunavut’s athletes compete has been uplifting, Akeeagok said. 

“Seeing all the different sports is really inspiring, especially coming from a lot of the communities that often don’t have the opportunity to compete at these high levels.”

He hopes that the momentum from the Games helps carry the team into its next competitions at the Canada Winter Games in February and the North American Indigenous Games later this summer. 

Team Nunavut will compete again in curling on Tuesday at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre Curling Rink. On Friday and Saturday they’ll also compete in a mixed team event. 

To follow Team Nunavut’s and Team Nunavik’s schedules at the games, visit for results and live video of events.  

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Who pays? on

    Who pays for participating in AWG? I have no kids so don’t know if they fundraise or if this is entirely paid by tax dollars?

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Sport Nunavut is very well funded by the Government of Nunavut.

  2. Posted by Caribou Hunter on

    Go Nunavut!!!

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