Special to the News
Editor’s Note: This is the third of four columns from Yukon cross-country skier Minty Bradford. This week she reflects on competing in her first Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island.
This past week was my first experience at a Canada Winter Games and it was in Prince Edward Island. At the games, I have been able to meet many new people from all provinces and territories and cross-country ski among the best in the country, including my teammates.
All of my coaches, the Team Yukon support staff and many volunteers have been making it possible for these games to be a fun way for the best young athletes in Canada to compete and represent their home province or territory. I am very grateful for all of the time and effort they put in to make the games a success, and want to thank them for all they have done to help me and all the other competitors.
All through the week of cross-country ski competition at the 2023 Canada Winter Games my coaches Alain Masson, Jen MacKeigan, Jean-Francois Blouin and Sarah Johnson have been waking up to go to the race site early to prep the skis for me and my teammates so that our skis are competitive.
Prepping the skis means they are waxed with the proper wax for the day, which changes depending on the snow type and the temperature. Waxing is very important in ski racing because wax helps the ski both glide as fast as possible and have a good grip to get up the big hills without wasting too much energy by slipping. Waxing takes a lot of time, and my coaches are very dedicated to this work to ensure that we have the best chance at competing in the races.
When I raced in the games I was very excited to be a part of a team with these great coaches. It was reassuring to know that they were looking after so many things that are beyond my control. I am proud to have been able to represent Team Yukon as well as the Yukon ski team here. Although we may not have been the biggest or the strongest team at these games, we showed up and raced well, and are proud of what we accomplished.
In addition to the coaches we have our cross-county ski chef de mission, Lucy Steele and the Team Yukon chef de mission, Trevor Twardochleb. These two people, among others, have been busy coordinating over the past months so that the whole Team Yukon can arrive at the games, compete at the games as well as return from the games in a way that is as organized and as simple as possible so that when it is the race or competition day all we have to do is ski as hard as we can. This support is really important because it shows that there are lots of people that want to support cross-country skiing in the Yukon and Canada.
The cross-country skiers compete in four events at the games. It was interesting to see so many skiers from almost every province and territory were there to race. I also raced with many skiers that I know from Western Canada and it was fun to see them all again.
It was also good to race against skiers that I have never met before from eastern Canada. It was great to see that we were all there racing against each other but still cheering everyone on and supporting one another.
My favourite race for these games was the 10-kilometre skate mass start. It was only my second time racing this distance because generally at my age (14) we race only five kilometres. Since the games’ racing category is under 20 years of age I raced in longer distances. This was my favourite race for many reasons, not only because it was my best individual result at the games, but also as I was able to race almost the whole time with one of my older teammates, Sophia Giangrande.
Giangrande is 17, so normally I would never race with her. During the whole race I had so much fun because we were working together and pushing each other to go as fast we could and it was a special moment that we got to share just the two of us together. Even though it was an individual race, we were helping each other out by staying together. That made it so our race ended with much more positive results because we took turns leading each other. By working together, we were able to manage our energy and effort better than if we were out there all alone.
Racing can be really hard and hurts a lot when you are pushing to your limits, but I found during the race I was enjoying myself, partly because of skiing with my teammate. After the race, my coaches told me that I was smiling during the race and that I looked as though I was having a lot of fun. The smiling may have been grimacing, but I do know that during that race I was really having fun.
While the focus of the Canada Winter Games is the competition, there are many events that are run in parallel. I went to a show performed by the First Nations from around P.E.I. They danced and played music, which was excellent.
I attended the closing ceremonies of these games on the last day which was a really fun way to finish off the week of competition with all of the athletes from every province and territory. All of Team Yukon was together for the second time of the games and we were all celebrating each other as well as the other provincial and territorial teams. Another big part of the Canada Games is pin trading. Every province or territory has pins made for each games and that each participant receives and can trade for pins from other provinces and territories.
My first Canada Winter Games will be an experience that I will never forget, as I got to race among the best junior skiers in Canada, meet skiers and other athletes that come from across the country. I am very proud to have represented Team Yukon and all of the staff and coaches that were here at the games. With the support from the Northern LYTES Youth Sport Development fund and the Yukon High Performance Athlete Assistance program I am developing as a young athlete so I can train to compete on a high level in the future.
Next week in Thunder Bay, Ont. I will be competing in the 2023 Canadian Ski Nationals. I have a one week break and plan to spend time recovering from this past week of competing. To get to Thunder Bay the Yukon ski team is driving in our team bus from Charlottetown, P.E.I. to Thunder Bay. This drive is about 30 hours, but we will be stopping along the way in Quebec City and in Timmins, Ont. Once we arrive in Thunder Bay I will have another week with four races. The racing distances will be shorter than in P.E.I., and I will be competing in the under 16 category which means that I will race girls my own age. I am looking forward to it and can’t wait to get there!