“Let the Games begin,” declared Arctic Winter Games president Gerry Thick Saturday night to a roaring crowd of over 1,800 athletes from around the polar world and a packed stadium full of fans.
The 2010 Arctic Winter Games have officially begun in Grande Prairie, AB. Hay River’s 36 athletes join the massive Team NWT, made up of 334 athletes and coaches from across the Territory.
Team NWT joins eight other regional teams in competition in 21 winter sports. International teams include Alaska, Greenland, Sapmi (indigenous people of northern Scandinavia), and the Yamal-Nenets state of Russia. Domestic teams include the Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik, the NWT, and of course the host team, Northern Alberta.
The fans were treated to a number of cultural presentations in the stadium including the Grande Prairie Bag Pipers, the Troyanda Ukranian Dancers, a professional hoola-hooper, and Cree cultural dances.
Meanwhile, 1800 athletes and coaches from the circumpolar world packed into the neighbouring room to showcase their jackets and Games spirit. They came pouring into the stadium full of cheering fans team by team.
A special honour was bestowed upon Hay River’s senior competitor Brieanne Glaicar, who is playing on the Team NWT volleyball team. She was chosen to carry the NWT flag for her team as it entered the stadium.
Glaicar’s mother, April, said that although she was not able to see Glaicar bearing the flag, she was brimming with pride for her daughter.
“I felt very proud, very happy,” she said. “It is quite an honour to carry the flag for your team.”
“I had no idea,” said Brieanne. “My coach texted me yesterday morning when I was half asleep so I didn’t think much when I found out. But later on I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty cool!’”
The Glaicars only found out about the news minutes before the ceremony began. April said the flag bearer is chosen on recommendation of the coaches. This is Glaicar’s third and final Arctic Winter Games. For the past two Games, Glaicar has competed as a biathlete and is a decorated athlete. She is also the recipient of the 2008 Fair Play Award for good sportsmanship.
“I think they look for someone who is a role model for a healthy lifestyle,” said April. “Brieanne is definitely that. She is so health conscious.”
Once all the athletes had entered the stadium, flags waved spasmodically as the local youth choir belted out the national anthems of each team represented. Local band Reject performed the theme song for the Games, ‘Rise Up,’ with the message that “there’s nothing that can stop you now,” to pump up the athletes.
AWG president Gerry Thick had his own spin on the 2010 AWG slogan.
“Let’s prepare to dream, aspire, and achieve as we come together as nations to share in fair play,” he said during his address to the athletes.
The actual slogan, ‘Dream, Achieve, Inspire,’ is printed on thousands of lanyards around necks of athletes, coaches, and volunteers for the Games. This includes the 260 officials and referees that have volunteered their services for the Games with the goal of promoting sport and fair play in the North.
“It’s more than a slogan,” said Gary Lund, Minister responsible for sports in Alberta. “It captures the passion shared here.”
Lund said the Games are an excellent opportunity to showcase northern culture, as well as the 21 traditional and modern sports.
“We applaud each one of you as you set out on your personal journey to dream, achieve, and inspire.”
Lirette, Magtibay claim bronze ulus
Hay River will be bringing home a few ulus in ski biathlon, thanks to a successful day of racing for the seven local biathletes.
Biathletes were fortunate enough to have snow to race on on Monday, after a warm spell hit Grande Prairie. Temperatures have been on the positive side of the mercury, with an intense sun adding to the quick melt. The winds were high for the race at noon, but the athletes pushed through to a strong finish overall.
Joseph Lirette started off the race for the junior male 7.5 km individual race. Mason Hachey was close behind in the same division. The boys were required to ski 7.5 km, with four bouts of shooting: two prone, and two standing.
Joseph raced his self onto the podium with a third place finish. A lump in the snow at the finish line made for a dramatic end to his race, as he bit the snow just after crossing the finish line.
Joseph, who injured his knee in a basketball tournament earlier in the year, has been spending his time in physio therapy to recover his knee before the Games.
“It didn’t hurt during the race, but it probably will be a bit stiff tonight,” said Joseph.
Joseph was pleased with his result; however, he is hungry for a sparklier ulu.
“It’s my first race of the year, so I did alright,” he said. “I lost by one shot. If I had shot better, I would have won.”
Mason was close behind Joseph with a 5th place finish in the event.
Also on the podium was Angeline Magtibay for the juvenile girls’ 5 km individual event. She claimed the bronze ulu for the NWT.
The rest of the athletes were only moments away from the podium. Christopher Lirette came in 4th in the juvenile boys’ event, and Colton Glaicar came in 5th for the same event.
Kim Ring was right behind Magtibay at a close 5th in the juvenile girls’ event, and Ilona Gyapay was in 10th.