Yukon is sending a small but experienced team to the Canada Winter Games, beginning this weekend in Prince George, B.C.
The territory will be represented by a team of 159, including 100 athletes, many of who have previous Games experience under their belt.
It is the smallest team Yukon has sent to a Canada Winter Games since the 2003 Games in New Brunswick.
“We just want them to perform to the best of their ability with a feeling of pride and fair play,” said Yukon Chef de Mission Trevor Twardochleb. “We are very proud of our athletes because a lot of them are very dedicated and committed and we invest a lot of money – not just the government, but the sports (organizations), the parents and everyone else – into these kids. So we want them to do crazy good.”
Yukon’s most recent national champ is obviously one to watch.
Figure skater Rachel Pettitt will take to the ice in the second week of the Games. The 15-year-old won Yukon’s first-ever gold at the 2015 National Skating Championships last month. Prince George will be Pettitt’s second Canada Games, having competed at the 2011 Games in Halifax at just 11 years old.
“I’m super excited,” Pettitt told the News after qualifying for the Games in November. “I had so much fun when I first went, and I was so young, so it was a huge experience for me. I feel like I’m ready to place, hopefully, at Canada Games and skate well, as well as it being an awesome experience.”
Pettitt also won two silver and a bronze for Yukon at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games.
Another figure skater to keep an eye on is Special Olympian Michael Sumner, who won silver at the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Sumner will first compete at the Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops next week before heading to Prince George.
Three of Yukon’s five medals at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax came in cross-country skiing. This year’s squad will attempt to surpass that.
Two team members just took on the world. Annah Hanthorn and Knute Johnsgaard just finished representing Canada at the FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Championships 2015 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, last week. Johnsgaard led the Canadian team in two U23 races, placing 14th in the sprint on Feb. 3. Hanthorn, who a member of the junior national team, placed in the mid-40s in the junior female races.
Yukon’s snowboarding team is chock-full of Games experience with plenty of hardware to show for it. Lara Bellon, who competed at 2011 Canada Games, won four gold at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games; Haylie Grant and Tim Schirmer have won six medals over two Arctic Games; Reanna Newsome won gold and two bronze at the 2014 Arctics, Esa Suominen three silver and a bronze, and Adam Waddington three silver.
Yukon’s most decorated athlete from the 2014 Arctics is set to ski and shoot in Prince George. Nadia Moser, the only Yukoner to collect three gold at the Arctics last year, will represent Yukon with teammate Maria Peters in biathlon.
National medalists will take to the slopes for Yukon on Saturday. Freestyle skiers Dylan Reed and Josh Harlow, who both won hardware at the junior nationals last year, will be joined by teammate Lyndsey Boorse, who won a gold at the 2013 B.C. Freestyle Ski Championships.
All 20 players on Yukon’s female hockey team are members of the Whitehorse Female Mustangs rep team. Thirteen played for Yukon’s fourth place team at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. Three players – Maya Oakley, Sierra Oakley and Chyanne Spenner – even played for Yukon at the 2011 Games in Halifax.
Yukon’s male hockey team has nine players from the Whitehorse Bantam Mustangs, including captain and scoring machine Joe Stokes. Also on board are eight Yukon players returning from Outside teams.
Next week Yukon’s male curlers will hit the sheets with lots of high-level experience.
Trygg Jensen, Brayden Klassen and William Klassen won gold at the 2014 Arctics. Jensen and Brayden played at the Junior Canadian Curling Championships two weeks ago, coming home with a 3-6 record.
Female skip Alyssa Meger curled for Yukon at the 2014 Arctic Games, placing fourth.
Katelyn Vowk is hoping to hit top speeds in B.C. The Alpine skier, who won a gold and silver at the 2014 Arctics, is one of two set to represent Yukon.
Three athletes are lone Yukoners in sports down in Prince George.
Brown-belt Jacob Melanson will compete in judo, synchronized swimmer Catherine Seal will compete in the solo competition, and speedskater Michael Ritchie will race short-track. Ritchie pocketed three silver and a bronze at the 2014 Arctic Games.
Yukon is sending seven squash players to the Canada Games and for two of them it’ll be a second go. Mustafa Syed and Eshan Idrees both played for Yukon at the 2011 Games in Halifax. Syed also produced two wins and two losses at the 2014 Canadian Junior Squash Championships last April.
Gymnasts Reena Coyne, 14, and Emily King, 11, have both won Arctic Games bronze in team events. Next week they’ll be facing older, tougher competition.
“Canada Games is national-level gymnastics and we don’t have anybody at national level. They are one level below that; they are Level 5,” said coach Catherine O’Donovan. “They qualify, but it’s going to be a hard match for them. So we’re more building the team for the future. So we’re giving them that experience and exposure to the national level.”
Half of Yukon’s table tennis team has seen major Games action before. Georgia Gaw, Grace-Anne Janssen and Arcel Siosan all played at the 2014 Arctics in Fairbanks.
Yukon archers will take aim at target shooting in Prince George. Corvin Dick, Nila Helm and Surene Pretorius each won divisions at the Yukon Outdoor 3D Archery Championships last October.
Contact Tom Patrick at
Coach: Yves Titley
Coach: Lisa Vowk
Coach: Les Johns
Manager: Emma Praprotnik
Coach: Catherine O’Donovan
Coach: Laurie Jacobsen
Coach: Dennis Peters
Tech support: Bill Curtis
Coach: Amanda Deuling
Coach: Alain Masson
Coach: Jan Downing
Manager: Scott Williams
Tech support: Jean-Francois
Coach: Rhonda Horte
Coach: Dean Klassen
Coach: Jason Mongrain
Coach: Trish Pettitt
Coach: Michelle Semaschuk
Manager: Christine Benedek
Coach: Steve Harlow
Coach: Stuart Robinson
Manager: Sylvie Geoffroy
Coach: Louis Bouchard
Coach: John Grant
Coach: Candice MacEachen
Manager: Lorna Spenner
Tech support: Carolyn Relf
Coach: Derek Klassen
Coach: Martin Lawrie
Manager: Angie Troke
Tech support: Rob Warner
Coach: Aaron Jensen
Manager: Peter Melanson
Coach: Katrina Couch
Coach: Norm Curzon
Tech support: Gabriel Rivest
Coach: Phil Hoffman
Coach: Khoon Chua
Manager: Terri Cairns
Coach: Heather O’Carroll
Manager: Aura-lea Harper
Coach: Kevin Murphy
Manager: Cornelia Brenner
Trevor Twardochleb – Chef de Mission
Christine Benedek – figure skating
Tracey Bilsky – asst. Chef de Mission/gymnastics/synchro
Diana Dryburgh – communications
Paolo Gallina – speedskating/communications
Jim Gilpin – squash
Lynda Harlow – freestyle skiing
Tanya Hope – hockey (male)
Laini Klassen – curling (male)
Jeane Lassen snowboarding/hockey (female)
Sarah Lewis – photographer
Peter Melanson – judo
Lisa Vowk – alpine skiing
Sue Richards – biathlon
Christine Rushant – table tennis
Bill Stonehouse – cross-country skiing
Helen Strong – curling (female)
Tara Wardle – archery