More than 100 Team Yukon athletes, coaches and managers attended a pep rally at Whitehorse’s MacBride Museum the evening of Feb. 13 in the lead-up for this year’s Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
A largely casual event, the majority of the evening was dedicated to having Team Yukon members, all clad in matching purple-and-grey fleece sweaters, rotate between tables to play games like knocking over plastic cups by shooting rubber bands at them or cup stacking.
Yukon Minister of Highways and Public Works Richard Mostyn gave a short send-off speech before the fun began, describing the chance to travel to and compete in the Games as an “exceptional opportunity.”
“I know you’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where you are today. You’ve put in time, effort and the practice needed to be the tops of your game …. Now you have a chance to compete down in Red Deer, nationally, against all of your peers,” he said.
“… Now, it’ll be a challenge, there’s no doubt about that, but you will improve your sport, you’ll learn a lot about yourselves, and you’ll also build new skills. The friendships and memories that you make in Red Deer will carry you throughout your life.”
The 2019 Canada Winter Games will take place Feb. 15 to March 3, with some events to be held in nearby Calgary and Kananaskis. More than 150 Yukon athletes will be competing in sports including alpine skiing, badminton, table tennis, judo, snowboarding and synchronized swimming.
Mostyn also announced Team Yukon’s flag-bearer for the Games at the Feb. 13 rally — 16-year-old Kyron Crosby, a forward on the men’s hockey team.
A born-and-raised Yukoner who spent six years playing competitive hockey in Whitehorse before moving down south to join the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., Crosby told media afterwards he was surprised by the announcement but that it was going to be “pretty cool” to walk out with the flag.
And although he’s a bit nervous, Crosby said he thought the men’s hockey team was a “pretty strong group” featuring both younger players as well as a handful of older ones, a mix that adds depth to their play.
One of the team’s biggest strengths is how long everyone’s known each other for, he added.
“I think, just, everyone’s played together since they were young, from novice all the way to where we are now,” Crosby said. “I think everyone’s been next to each other … We know each other well, and we’re going to play real good.”
Meanwhile, Team Yukon’s squash coach Julien Revel said that he’s working with a “fairly young team,” and that one of the main goals he has going into the Games is to get his players, some of who are young as 12 years old, used to playing at a more intense level.
The team has been playing three games a week in preparation, and will also be playing a tournament this weekend in an effort to get players used to the one to two games they’ll be playing per day in Alberta.
“It’s going to be a really hard competition for us,” Revel said.
For cross-country skier Sonjaa Schmidt, 16, and biathlete Amelie Latour, 17, though, the prospect of the Games is a little less intimidating. Both have already competed in a number of local, national and international championships and trials for their sports, and said that they’ll be focusing on meeting, or beating, their personal bests in Red Deer.
“I’m not really going to focus on the (overall) results … I know the field is so big and (in) the age category, I think I’m one of the youngest, so I’m going to focus on myself first and see how it goes,” Schmidt said.
While Latour admitted that she was a bit nervous because of the large age category at the Games, meaning she’ll be up against more athletes with wider skill and experience ranges, she also said that keeping an eye on her own numbers would be her top priority.
“I just want to focus on trying to meet my personal bests or even beat them, but yeah, just trying to be happy with my races and not so much focusing on the podium or anything,” she said.
The Canada Games are held every other year, alternating between summer and winter.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com