Athletes prepare for national spotlight

By Ian Stewart News Reporter For a person walking in off the street, some Inuit games events must look like torture.

By Ian Stewart

News Reporter

For a person walking in off the street, some Inuit games events must look like torture.

Take the swing kick, for example.

Veteran Inuit gamer Charly Kelly demonstrated this event during the Yukon Inuit and Dene Games Championships, on the weekend at the Elijah Smith School in Whitehorse.

She wrapped a strap behind her head and around her legs, and tightened it until her forehead nearly touched her knees. Then, she balanced herself on her hands, and neatly swung her feet up — kicking the small stuffed seal hanging about 1.2 metres off the ground above her.

No problem, right?

Then everyone else tried it, and there was a lot of grimacing, groaning and laughing.

But there was not a lot of seal-kicking.

Yukon’s small but talented squad of Inuit sports athletes isn’t too worried about its performance in the swing kick, it’s a brand new event for most of its members anyway.

When it comes to the standard events, like the knuckle hop, kneel jump, one-foot high kick and Alaskan high kick — team Yukon looks pretty good.

Yukoners Tom Fulop and Josh Carr even took some medals in the kneel jump and triple jump at the Arctic Winter Games in Kenai, Alaska earlier this year.

That bodes well for Yukon’s chances in the Inuit and Dene games competition, which will be part of the Canada Games in February.

This weekend’s championships also gave coaches a chance to see likely Team Yukon candidates in action.

The competition is restricted to the three territories, and is technically a demonstration event. Winners will receive different medals, and they won’t be included in the overall medal counts.

Unfortunately for Yukon, triple jump (a Russian event) is out and swing kick is in.

“In the Inuit games, there’s probably over 100 different events, everything from simple running races to what you see here,” said Dean Mastrangelo of Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle as his athletes tested the limits of their strength, agility and pain tolerance.

Compared to Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, the traditional home of the Inuit games, Yukoners are rookies.

Mastrangelo said that in Nunavut more than 150 kids tried out for its Canada Games team. Yukon had seven.

We fare a little better in the Dene games, which are traditional to this area, and include events like snow snake, stick pull and hand games (stick gambling).

A full roster of 16 athletes (four men and women for Inuit games, and four men and women for Dene games) is unlikely. The girls’ side, especially, lacks numbers.

However, Team Yukon Inuit games coach Cody Wilkinson is optimistic, when asked about our chances.

“We’re not going to get blown out of the water; I think we can get into the top five,” he said.

The team has just over two months to hone its skills, which in some events, are very specialized.

In the Alaskan high kick, players must balance on one hand and one foot, while holding their other foot. Then they have to kick the target without letting go of the foot.

These events require careful training and stretching, to prevent damage to muscles.

“It’s like any other sport, training certain muscles one day, for certain events, and then resting them,” said Wilkinson.

Wilkinson also stressed the importance of preparing his athletes for the media spotlight focused on them during the Games.

“There’s going to be tonnes of cameras there, even more than Artic Winter Games,” he said. “They need to learn to handle that.”

It’s not the first time Inuit and Dene games have been held at the Canada Games.

“It was part of the cultural festivities in London in 2001, and in Kamloops in 1993,” said Mastrangelo.

A similar approach was proposed for the Whitehorse event, he added.

Mastrangelo didn’t like the cultural demonstration idea, and told the Canada Games organizers that it would have to be a real competition.

“If you want it in the Games, this is how it’s got to happen,” he said. “It’s not going to be a demonstration event because the athletes don’t like it.

“They don’t like being put on stage and just jumping. They want to be competitive. They’ll get medals — and the spectators can see how it’s done properly.”

Here are the results of the Yukon Inuit and Dene Games Championships:

Inuit games (Sunday)

Kneel jump:

Male

1st Tom Fulop, 118 centimetres

2nd Jake Loos, 95.9 centimetres

3rd Mike Kelly, 77.5 centimetres

Female

1st Gabrielle Thorson-Herdes,

46.4 centimetres

2nd Carlene Anderson,

21.6 centimetres

One hand reach:

Male

1st Jake Loos, 141 centimetres

2nd (tie) Mike Johnson and

Tom Fulop, 139 centimetres

Two-foot high kick:

1st Tom Fulop, 203 centimetres

2nd Jake Loos, 183 centimetres

Swing kick:

Male

1st Jake Loos, 142 centimetres

Female

1st Gabrielle Thorson-Herdes,

89 centimetres

One-foot high kick:

Male

1st Jake Loos, 229 centimetres

2nd Mike Kelly, 224 centimetres

3rd Tom Fulop, 218 centimetres

Female

1stGabrielle Thorson-Herdes,

157 centimetres

Knuckle Hop:

Male

1st Jake Loos, 23.7 metres

2nd Tom Fulop, 20.6 metres

3rd Mason Fairclough,

8.1 metres

Arm Pull:

Female

1st Gabrielle Thorson-Herdes

2nd Carlene Anderson

All Around:

Female

1st Gabrielle Thorson-Herdes

2nd Carlene Anderson

Male

1st Jake Loos

2nd Tom Fulop

3rd Mike Kelly

Dene games (Saturday)

Snow Snake:

Male

1st Blake Lepine, 57.5 metres

2nd Doronn Fox, 56.5 metres

3rd Cody Wilkinson,

40.6 metres

Female

1st Charabelle Silverfox

36 metres

2nd Victoria Medcalf, 29 metres

3rd Myranda Charlie,

18.9 metres

Stick Pull

Female

1st Charabelle Silverfox?

2nd Victoria Medcalf

3rd Myranda Charlie

Male

1st Doronn Fox

2nd Jonah Caeser

3rd Cody Wilkinson

Finger Pull:

Female

1st Myranda Charlie

2nd Kara Lepine

3rd Victoria Medcalf

Male

1st Doronn Fox

2nd Blake Lepine

3rd Jonah Caeser

All around:

Female

1st Charabelle Silverfox

2nd (tie) Myranda Charlie

and Victoria Medcalf

Male

1st Doronn Fox

2nd Blake Lepine?

3rd Cody Wilkinson

and Jonah Caeser

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