Not a day of the snowboard competition went by in which fewer than three Yukoners slid, flew or raced to medals at the Arctic Winter Games last week.
Yukon’s snowboard team won a total 21 medals in four days including four overall ulus in the combined team division.
“You go in and say, ‘Compete your best and if you get medals that’s great,’ but to come out with four or five medals every day is just amazing,” said Yukon head coach Katrina Couch. “The camaraderie and the athleticism was amazing between all the contingents. It was just a really good event, the weather was awesome, just everything was great.”
Yukon captured more snowboard medals than any other jurisdiction in Fairbanks. The Yukon boarders also won more hardware for the territory than Team Yukon did in any other sport.
But that’s nothing new. Fairbanks marks the third Arctic Games in a row the snowboard squad led Team Yukon in medals.
Having a facility like Whitehorse’s Mount Sima is a big part of the team’s success, said Couch. Boarders sent from other jurisdictions aren’t so lucky. N.W.T.’s boarders train in a gravel pit in Yellowknife. Others train on hills without chairlifts.
It just so happens Mount Sima has built its best-ever terrain park this season with some of the biggest jumps in its history.
“It’s a huge part,” said Couch. “We’ve had Sima past years but this is a really well-built facility and have so much time to train in the park, so much time to develop our skills on rails and jumps – we have the whole package at Sima this year.
“For the girls to be able to train at home on those large jumps and then come to a competition and say the jumps are small compared to home, we had a step-up in the Games.
“It made a major difference in our Games.”
The 21 medals in snowboarding is a record for Team Yukon at the Games. Yukon boarders won 15 medals at the 2012 Games in Whitehorse and 10 medals at the 2010 Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.
Yukon boarders claimed four gold medals last week. Whitehorse’s Esa Suominen won overall gold for juvenile males to cap the competition.
“I was just super happy on how I did,” said Suominen. “Everyone rode really well; the whole Yukon team did really good.”
Suominen took silvers in slopestyle, slalom and another in the “arctic air” – the Games’ cutesy name for big air – with a backside rodeo 540. He also grinded out a bronze in the rail jam.
“I was super stoked on how everyone rode, not just myself,” said Suominen. “Everyone was bringing in medals and the whole vibe of the competition was really fun, so I don’t think it felt like a competition. I think that’s what made myself do really well.”
Yukon’s Haylie Grant was the only Yukon boarder with two gold at the closing ceremony on Saturday. She won silver overall in juvenile female.
“This week has been awesome, I’ve definitely learned a lot and had a great time with the team,” said Grant. “It was just so much fun. Everything was awesome.”
Grant rode to gold in the slopestyle and arctic air and placed fourth in the slalom and rail jam.
Of the two silver, “I think slopestyle means more to me because I did my first 180 and my first switch boardslide,” said Grant. “I did three brand new tricks. More people were in that competition and I really did have to try.”
Whitehorse’s Adam Waddington really packed in the silver last week. He won four silver including the overall medal in the junior male division.
“The competition was good. Everyone I was competing against was super awesome and super fun to ride with,” said Waddington. “The course was less than perfection. The jumps were small – the rails were set up pretty well – but the main thing was the jumps were pretty small.”
Waddington placed second in the slalom, arctic air and rail jam, and was fourth in the slopestyle.
“I was obviously shooting for the stars,” said Waddington. “The guy from Greenland (Mathias Mark) is an amazing rider and he definitely deserves the golds he got.”
Reanna Newsome was another big winner for Yukon. She won two bronze and a gold in the rail jam on her way to a bronze in the overall for juvenile female.
Teammate Tim Schirmer took three medals in juvenile male. Schirmer claimed silver in the rail jam and bronze in the slopestyle and slalom. He just missed medaling in the overall with a fourth place finish.
Rachel MacIntosh, who was the least experienced on the team, boarded to two bronze in Fairbanks. MacIntosh, who only started competing in snowboarding this season and was competing up an age division in junior female, placed third in slopestyle and in the rail jam.
“Coming out and overcoming a lot of fears, it was really amazing to see her grow,” said Couch. “In competition she’d say, ‘I’m scared to do this,’ but then she’d go and try it in practice and all of a sudden she was learning new tricks in practice and then was throwing them out in competition and was really stepping up to the plate. It was amazing to see her growth, in practice and in competition. She was doing things I didn’t know she could do.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org