Local Olympians handed top honours at Sport Yukon Awards Night

Sports are alive and well in the territory. If you weren’t one of the many people carrying swag from Sport Yukon’s 33rd Annual Awards…

Sports are alive and well in the territory.

If you weren’t one of the many people carrying swag from Sport Yukon’s 33rd Annual Awards Night, that’s one concrete thing you could take from the event.

From swimming to skiing, a truckload of awards were handed out Friday evening at the Westmark Whitehorse.

The affair commemorated the outstanding performances of Yukon’s best athletes, coaches and officials.

“My international friends are often intrigued by the reality of being an amateur athlete in Canada, even more so by the lifestyles of Yukoners,” said Olympic weightlifter Jeane Lassen, who was named International Female Athlete of the Year for her eighth-place finish at the Games.

“As Yukon athletes, we have to work hard just to fund a trip in order to find challenging competitors. I think this helps us see competing as an honour and a privilege.”

In winning the award, Lassen beat out world-ranked shooter Danielle Marcotte and world-class swimmers Bronwyn Pasloski and Alexandra Gabor.

“This is probably one of the most important lessons,” said Lassen in her speech. “Hard work doesn’t always pay off the way you want it to, but it’s the only way to give yourself a chance to succeed,” said Lassen. “Nothing is guaranteed in sport or life.”

Getting the corresponding male award was fellow Olympian cyclist Zach Bell, who finished seventh out of 25 riders in the points race and then took a 12th-place finish in the Madison at the Games.

The cyclist beat out shooting sensation Nicholas Rittel.

Bell had some great Olympic anecdotes to share with the audience and, like Lassen, his Yukon roots quickly became the focus.

“I was thinking, ‘Great, this is the biggest race of my life and three minutes before it I’m going to die of a heart attack in the in-field,’” recollected Bell of the moments before his points race at the Games. “Then I thought, ‘What got me here was my background, it was the things I experienced growing up here and being a Yukoner.’ And I started to look at all the other guys cycling around … and I started thinking these guys might be kind of soft. I don’t think any of them walked to school for five kilometres in the snow.

“For me, it was drawing on that place we all call home that really relit the fire in my belly to get up there and know I can compete with these guys.”

The event included the induction of Bud Arnold to the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame for the countless volunteer hours he has committed to sports in the territory. The focus was placed on Arnold’s work in local hockey, working as statistician, league executive, referee and much more.

However, Arnold performs similar duties during softball season in the Whitehorse league.

“They haven’t run me out of town yet,” said Arnold, who has officiated as many as 256 hockey games in just one season. “But there were times when I had to sneak out the back door of the rink after a game.

“We all know that there’s good days and bad days for athletes. Well, the same thing goes for officials — you can’t please everyone in the building. Thankfully, for most of us, the good calls outweigh the bad calls by a huge margin.”

Other awards included Coach of the Year, which was given to biathlon coach Judy Hartling, who was away at a competition in Alberta.

Cross-country skier Emily Nishikawa beat out swimmer Emily Bielz for National/Territorial Female Athlete of the Year, while fellow cross-country skier David Greer also beat out a swimmer, Tanner Cassidy, for the men’s award.

“It means a lot to him to be nominated in his hometown,” said Greer’s mother, Lorrie Greer, who accepted the award on behalf of her son who is currently training in BC.

“As David always says, ‘Yukon rocks.’”

Spouses Jim and Sue Stephens were named Administrators of the Year for their work with local hockey leagues.

Contact Tom Patrick at