Team Yukon wasted little time in capturing their first medals in eight years at the Western Canada Summer Games this week in Fort McMurray, Alta.
By the halfway point on Wednesday, Yukon captured two medals – two more than fellow territories N.W.T. and Nunavut. The silver and bronze are the first medals for the territory at westerns since the 2007 Games in Strathcona County, Alta. (Yukon was shutout in the medal standings at the 2011 Games in Kamloops, B.C.)
Whitehorse’s Hannah King ended Yukon’s eight-year medal drought on Sunday, just two days into competition.
The 14-year-old captured bronze in judo, taking third out of three in the females 57-63 kilogram weight class.
“That’s amazing! I didn’t expect that to happen,” said King. “I feel I did pretty good. I worked really hard for it.
“It’s been amazing – this is by far my favourite experience with judo,” she added. “I like that it’s a multi-sport Games, so I don’t only get to see judo, I’ve gotten to see basketball, I’ve gotten to see wrestling, I’ve gotten to see gymnastics.”
Judo teammates Brandon Butler, Jacob Melanson and Shayne Melanson, placed fifth in their respective divisions and in the male team event.
Whitehorse’s Brody Smith then added a second medal that was monumental beyond the scope of westerns.
The 18-year-old won a silver medal in the 5,000-metre race walk on Monday to become the first Yukoner ever to win a medal in athletics at a major Games.
“I feel really proud,” said Smith. “I just started race walking this summer, so I’ve been training all summer for it. I don’t really have any background in it, this is my first race in race walk.”
Smith finished with a time of 36 minutes and 36.46 seconds, placing second behind B.C.‘s Erik Thies.
He is also the first Yukon athlete to compete in race walking – a long-distance form of racing in which one foot must always be in contact with the ground – at a major Games.
“Brody is the first person I could talk into trying it and he did fine,” said Yukon athletics head coach Don White. “We made the offer to a number of athletes and Brody was the only one who took us up on it.
“As far as him winning a medal, it’s the first medal that has been earned by a (Yukon) athlete in track and field at any of the major Games since we started taking kids out.”
Smith wasn’t the only Yukon athlete so far to pen his name in the history books.
Whitehorse’s Max Clarke and Benjamin Grundmanis became the first Yukoners ever to compete in beach volleyball at a major Games.
“It’s been an awesome time. There’s so much to learn still. There are some super strong teams to learn from, and they’re all super nice and friendly and they help you out,” said Grundmanis. “The entire experience has been pretty great.”
The two Yukoners went winless in five round robin matches in the first three days of competition under a blazing sun. They finished with their closest match of all, losing 9-21, 21-18, 15-11 to N.W.T. in the fifth/sixth place crossover match, finishing sixth on Tuesday.
“It was close all around even if the 21-9 score didn’t say it. In that set they basically just rolled over at a certain point,” said Clarke. “As for the sets that we lost, those were both pretty close. I think they were the better team, but we definitely had the possibility to beat them.”
The territory’s two basketball teams were held to one win between them.
Yukon’s female team went winless to finish sixth out of six teams.
Yukon’s males took sixth out of seven teams, avoiding last with a decisive 83-21 win over Nunavut on Monday. Ryan Hindson led offensively in the game, scoring 29 points while teammates Ian New and Dave Mindanao put up 17 and 14, respectively.
Whitehorse’s Ewan Halliday served up a win on the tennis courts to take eighth out of 11 in male singles. He dropped a close 6-3, 6-3 match to Manitoba’s Shawn Sophasath in the seventh/eight match and finished eighth with a 6-3, 6-2 win over teammate Matthias Hoenisch on Monday. Hoenisch and Yukon’s Alex Roberts tied for ninth.
Back to athletics: Whitehorse’s Kieran Halliday ran and jumped to fifth in the 3,000-metre steeplechase in athletics with a time of 9:42.58, just 13 seconds off the bronze finisher.
Dawson’s Jack Amos took ninth in the 5,000-metre; Levi Johnson ninth in shot put; Kuduat Shorty-Henyu ninth in javelin; and Katie Vowk 10th out of 15 in javelin with Yukon teammates Sophie Janke and Kestrel Martin in the spots behind her.
Yukon’s cycling team raced on and off the road in Fort McMurray with their best results in the latter. Sara Burke-Forsyth raced to 11th in the cross-country mountain bike race and placed 14th in the general classification (GC) out of 19 cyclists.
Shea Hoffman took 13th in the cross-country eliminator event and took 19th in the GC out of 22. Teammate Ian Hansen rode to 17th in eliminator for 20th in GC.
Pelly Vincent-Braun, Yukon’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremony, and Andrew Crist teamed up to place eighth in K-2 5,000-metre in the canoe-kayak competition. Emily Crist finished 11th in K-1, 5,000-metre.
Whitehorse’s Reena Coyne – Yukon’s only gymnast in Fort McMurray – took 25th out of 28 in the all-around competition.
After a turnaround day on Wednesday, with only baseball taking place, the Games resumed full force Thursday with Yukon athletes competing in badminton, soccer, swimming and indoor volleyball.
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