The Yukon sports community gathered at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse for the third annual Celebration of Sport Excellence hosted by the Yukon government on April 25.
Dozens of awards were given out, including Premier’s Awards of Excellence, Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle awards, Sport Yukon awards, Minister’s Awards of Recognition, Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Commemorative Awards and Olympic Awards.
The evening was hosted by Serge Michaud, executive director of Special Olympics Yukon.
The event was also an opportunity to induct Bill Curtis into the Yukon Sport Hall of Fame.
Curtis has been involved in an impossible number of sports in the Yukon since the early 1980s as an official, builder and administrator, including cross-country skiing, biathlon, softball, badminton, squash, canoe and kayak, and cycling.
Speaking to the crowd, Curtis thanked the government and the sponsors who help make so many events happen in the territory, all the people he has worked with over the years and his wife for her support.
Curtis also told a story illustrating the importance of being appreciative.
“Hearing a thank you now and again makes our jobs a little more gratifying,” said Curtis. “I recall one day after a biathlon race as I was grooming the stadium. Just as it was looking perfect — not a flake of snow out of place — I saw two young athletes running across the freshly groomed stadium toward me. My dismay quickly turned to joy when one of the athletes said, ‘We just want to thank you for grooming Bill.’”
The Sport Yukon awards honoured the Yukon’s athletes of the year, administrator of the year, team of the year and coach of the year.
This year’s National/Territorial Female Athlete of the Year was Maddison Nicholson. Nicholson was the captain of the Yukon female hockey teams at both the 2018 Arctic Winter Games and the 2019 Canada Winter Games. She also served as an alternate captain of the Shawnigan Lake School hockey team in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League and recently accepted an offer to play for Plymouth State University on an academic scholarship.
The National/Territorial Male Athlete of the year was Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens. Cozens led the WHL in rookie goal scoring en route to winning the WHL Rookie of the Year Award, and helped Canada win gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with five points.
Cozens is currently in Sweden as part of Team Canada for the 2019 Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, but sent a short video message expressing his thanks.
“I’m coming home soon,” said Cozens. “And I hope to bring back a gold medal with me.”
Emily Nishikawa was named the International Female Athlete of the Year in recognition of her cross-country skiing season, which included a trip to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics – her second Olympics.
Unable to attend the event in person, her mother accepted the award on her behalf and read a short statement to the crowd.
“I’d also like to thank my coaches, teammates and the entire Yukon sporting community,” it read. “I’m so lucky to have grown up here with the most supportive community around me.”
The International Male Athlete of the Year was the winner of last year’s national award, Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon.
It was a big year for the freestyle skier, winning gold at the Canada Cup in Calgary, gold at the NorAm Cup at Mammoth Mountain, California, and bronze at the NorAm Cup in Calgary.
Currently in Whistler, B.C., in preparation for next season, the award was accepted by his mother who read Geoffroy-Gagnon’s acceptance remarks to the crowd.
The Administrator of the Year was Bonnie Love and the Coach of the Year was Yves Titley.
The two Olympic Awards went to Dahria Beatty and Knute Johnsgaard for making their Olympic debuts at the 2018 Games.
The Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle handed out four awards at the event.
The Aboriginal Athlete of the Year was Kiiwaadin Swan for his hard work and excellence on the basketball court.
The Aboriginal Arctic Sports/Dene Games Athlete of the Year was Emily King.
Gary Bailie was the Aboriginal Coach of the Year and the Council of Yukon First Nations was recognized for outstanding commitment to Aboriginal Sports.
The Premier’s Awards of Excellence, presented to athletes who have excelled at provincials, western Canadian, national and international competitions, honoured 31 individuals and three teams in 12 sports.
Premier Sandy Silver was originally scheduled to present the awards in person, but organizers on the day said he was currently out of the territory and that John Streicker, minister of community services, would present those awards as well as the Minister’s Awards of Sport Recognition.
The Minister’s Awards of Sport Recognition were presented to athletes who excelled at the Arctic Winter Games, the Canada 55+ Games, provincials, western Canadian, national and international competitions.
Winners included the 22 gold ulu winners from the 2018 Arctic Winter Games, the 17 gold medal winners at the Canada 55+ Games, and another 20 individuals.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com