Yukon men hit two medals in swing kick

Joshua Carr was nursing long red lash marks across the back of his neck after competing on Wednesday afternoon.

Joshua Carr was nursing long red lash marks across the back of his neck after competing on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a little bit sore,” the 16-year-old Yukon athlete said as his lifted his long brown hair to display the burns.

Dealing with pain is part of the package in Inuit sports.

And Wednesday afternoon’s competition, where two Yukon men went home with medals in the swing kick, was no exception.

The goal in swing kick is to hit a target four or five feet high, while seated on the ground.

It’s a test of an athlete’s flexibility, strength and focus.

It’s a tricky sport to explain, and it’s even tougher to do.

In the championship round, Carr sat on the floor beneath the sealskin target.

A thick strap ran around the back of his neck and the back of his knees. He was folded over like a suitcase.

It looked uncomfortable.

He gazed up at his target with wide eyes and ran his tongue over his teeth.

Then he placed his hands on the floor and used them to lift his body, rocking it back and forth like a pendulum.

His arms shook with the strain.

With a burst of energy he propelled his straight legs upward towards the target and tapped the seal with his toes, leaving the stuffed animal swinging.

His effort was rewarded as the normally quiet crowd erupted into wild applause.

A few minutes later, as the results streamed in, Carr realized he medaled and quickly hugged his coach.

Then they both hurried over to Tom Fulop, who earned bronze in the event and exchanged high-fives.

“It’s going to be pretty sweet going back to school,” said Carr with a wide smile.

In these games, athletes try to best each other through of flexibility, strength and endurance.

But the real battles are waged against themselves.

“Watching is a little nerve-wracking but he’s a good boy, he’s confident in himself,” said Carr’s mother Melanie Bennett, while watching the competition from the sidelines.

“I used to participate in these sports, so it’s nice to see him doing it.

“I know that his father is looking down on him and is really proud, and all of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in people are really proud,” she added.

It’s the first time the Inuit sports have been included in the Canada Winter Games, and team Yukon has already distinguished itself.

“They’re just as good and just as strong as the athletes from the other territories,” said Yukon coach Cody Wilconson, who has participated several times as an athlete and coach in Inuit sports at the Arctic Winter Games.

“We’re proving it every day, getting medals.”

Wilconson, who has been coaching for two years, relies on knowledge of coaches from the other territories to help his team.

“That’s what’s cool about the Arctic sports,” he said.

“I’m still learning about this myself; there’s so much to know.”

Wilconson is also using this opportunity to build interest for the sport and recruit more Yukoners to play.

“A lot of people don’t understand it; they think you have to be Inuit or First Nations to do the sports,” he said.

“But you don’t have to be a certain colour to do these sports.”

This is the third silver Carr has earned for the Yukon team. The first two came on Sunday in the kneel jump and the one-hand reach competitions.

Cedric Schilder won a bronze in the two-foot high kick on Monday.

Gabrielle Eva Thorsen-Herdes and Anya Kayani Zimmerman won silver and bronze respectively in the female swing kick on Wednesday.

Zimmerman also won gold in the arm pull.

Medals from the Inuit Games do not count toward a territorial team’s final tally because, like snowboarding, they are considered demonstration sports.