Skilled Yukoners win 13 medals

It took 12 years for the Yukon to take home a gold medal from Canadian Skills Competition. Now the Yukon has won two in a row.

It took 12 years for the Yukon to take home a gold medal from Canadian Skills Competition. Now the Yukon has won two in a row.

In fact, the territory tied its results from last year – its most successful year at the time – winning a total of six medals at the event.

Whitehorse’s Nathan Peterson, who won a bronze last year, returned to the Canadian Skills Competition last week in Waterloo, Ontario, winning gold in the heavy-duty mechanics category.

“He didn’t just win – he ran away from the field,” said Skills Canada Yukon president Dan Curtis. “I talked to one of the judges and he said, ‘He was in a class of his own.’

“The judge said in three or four years, he wants him to come and judge. He said he has such natural talent and ability, it’s really obvious he’s worked on a wide variety of equipment. He said he was just blown away by Nathan.”

With just one or two points out of 1,000 often separating top finishers, Peterson completely dominated, surpassing the second place finisher by more than 100 points.

“The silver and bronze medalists were within a few points, but Nathan just amazed everyone,” said Curtis. “He’s up there with the best in the world – there’s no question.”

“After the first day of competition, I didn’t think I’d end up doing so good – I messed up on a couple little sections of the program,” said Peterson. “But I pulled through. Everyone messed up more than me I guess.”

An employee of Balsam’s Trailer and Tire Repair in Whitehorse, Peterson, 20, has been working on large engines for about four years.

“I got lots of hands-on training with a lot of good people to work with,” said Peterson. “I’d like to thank my employer for the training and giving me time off work. I’d like to thank my coach Matt Johnson as well.

“It was a tough competition, especially with 25,000 people that head through, always watching you work,” added Peterson. “I don’t work well under pressure, but I guess I did that day.”

The event also saw the first medal to be won by a Yukoner from outside of Whitehorse. Dawson City’s Greg Fischer, 18, stripped and rebuilt a lawnmower engine on his way to a bronze in small engine repair.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Fischer. “I’ve been trying for three years now and third time’s the charm. It’s pretty exciting.”

Having reached an impasse in skills development in his hometown, Fischer spent a month at Yukon Yamaha in Whitehorse to further advance his skills.

“Working with stuff that’s not 10 years old and a big variety (helped),” said Fisher, who finished fourth in the same category last year.

“Yukon Yamaha took him under their wing and they want to hire him now – they think he’s great,” said Curtis.

Continuing on from last year, Duncan’s Ltd apprentice Molly Jenney, who became the first female Yukoner to medal at the event last year with a silver, took second again in sheet metalwork category, missing first by just nine points out of a 1,000.

“That’s the fourth year in a row that Duncan’s has brought home a national medal to the Yukon,” said Curtis. “I think it’s the only place in Canada that has produced (winning) apprentices four years in a row because it’s so hard to get a medal.”

Whitehorse’s Denis Godin, who won the Yukon’s first gold medal last year, took in a silver this time around in the mechanical CAD category.

Tyler Martin, who works at Dynamic Electric, won silver in electrical wiring.

First time competitor Jodie Thompson, who works out of Inkspiration Graphics, won bronze in graphic design in the post-secondary level.

“It’s so neat that Yukon is taking secondary students and post-secondary students, and we’re winning in different disciplines,” said Curtis. “We’ve never won in graphic design before, so it’s nice to see that new energy happening.”

Although she did not make a trip to the podium, FH Collins Secondary student Caroline Stanhope literally had to work through the pain last week. Stanhope kept secret a broken finger in order to still compete in the culinary category. To make matters worse, she punctured her hand while deboning a chicken, but insisted she continue, eventually taking seventh.

“There was an ambulance there, so she was taken to it and they said, ‘You have got to go get these stitches,’” said Curtis. “But she refused to go – she got them to clean it up and put on a latex glove so she could finish the competition. Not until she cleaned up her entire section would she agree to go to the hospital.”

The Yukon sent 23 trades people to the event, including two teams of two in the 2D animation and TV-video categories.

“We had post-secondary students, high school students and apprentices, so it was pretty good mix,” said Curtis.

To put Yukon’s results into perspective, Canada’s other two territory won just one medal between them – a demonstration medal, going to Nunavut.

“I’ve been around for a long time and in my opinion it was the best team the Yukon has ever sent,” said Curtis. “They were so focused and dedicated, I think they won through sheer will.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com