Grande Prairie, Alberta
Some Yukon sports teams at the Arctic Winter Games last week could boast about having athletes from Outside Whitehorse.
But for the badminton contingent, it was the reverse.
The eight-person team contained just one Whitehorse resident, with the remaining spots filled by two players from Dawson City and five from Watson Lake.
“Whitehorse provides so many options and a variety of sports that kids can draw from, for that reason kids are pulled into other sports,” said Yukon badminton head coach Randy Carlson. “We just don’t have those options in the rural communities. It’s hard to crack into a Whitehorse team sport.”
Moving the team from unordinary to extraordinary, Yukon took home seven medals in just 10 events, up from four medals in the 2008 Arctic Games in Yellowknife.
“We had full trials and there was nothing arbitrary about the selections,” said Carlson. “The top kids that emerged from that were selected for the team.
“We’ve been up to Dawson twice to run training camps over the last couple of years.
“They don’t have a formal coach up there, they just play recreationally.”
Watson Lake’s Adrianna Brunet and Vanessa Carlson both won medals against considerably older competitors.
Playing up an age division in the junior female category (U-19), 15-year-old Vanessa won gold in singles, defeating Greenland’s Rina Lorentzen 21-14, 21-17 in the finals.
“She won the singles (at the 2008 Arctic Games) and she said, ‘In two years I’m going to want to play against the older girls,’” said Randy Carlson.
“We find this has worked well for us over the years, to give our younger kids the experience and to prepare them for a tough tournament, and it pays off in the long run.”
At 12, Brunet was not a favourite by any stretch last week competing in the juvenile female (U-16) division. However, Brunet and doubles partner Michaela Rotondi of Watson Lake, won bronze in the girls doubles.
“She’s just a new player, starting, I think, in November,” said Randy. “Adrianna was willing to work on her game and go out knowing that the competition would be tough.
“She really rose to the occasion.”
Also capturing gold were Logan Godin of Whitehorse and Justin Dragoman of Dawson, winning in the juvenile male doubles.
“There’s a pretty good group of guys since last year (in Dawson) and we all play pretty competitively – we’re pretty even,” said Dragoman, who also finished fourth in juvenile male singles. “(The clinics held in Dawson) encouraged us to try out and got us a little more serious.
“I think the doubles was more of an accomplishment (than in the singles) because we were both playing our best games ever.
“I’d like to thank the Carlson family – they’re the reason we went there. They came all the way up to Dawson to train with us in multiple clinics.”
Watson Lake’s Jason Carlson was one of just three on the team to win multiple medals, taking bronze in the junior male singles and silver in the mixed doubles with his sister Vanessa.
“I had to work pretty hard for the bronze and the competition was pretty stiff and I had to win some tight games,” said Jason. “But I also liked working with my sister for the mixed (doubles) and the final was a pretty good game against a really competitive pair. So I had to work hard for both of them and I’m pretty thrilled with them.”
After taking home two silvers in 2008, Jason, although thrilled with medaling, was a little disappointed to not reach the ultimate goal last week.
“I was hoping to pick up a gold,” he said. “The singles were tough, but in the mixed I think we had a legitimate shot at taking the gold. If we had made a few less mistakes and played a little bit better badminton (we might have won).”
Vanessa was the team’s big winner with three medals, also taking silver in female doubles with Watson Lake’s Abbie Rotondi. Godin and Rotondi also won bronze in juvenile mixed doubles.
Just missing the podium in other events, Jason, with Dawson’s Andrew Taylor, came fourth in doubles, while Rotondi was fourth in the juvenile female singles.
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com