For a few months this winter, Pelly Crossing’s cold, dimly lit curling rink became a training facility for one of the country’s stalwart shooters.
Fourteen-year-old Danielle Marcotte, with the help of her father Darcy, spent hours sitting on a block heater for warmth and training her pistol on a bull’s-eye in preparation for the Canada Winter Games.
“It was like a dungeon at times, but snow or blow or whatever, she was there,” said Darcy after watching his daughter shoot in Vanier’s gym on Thursday afternoon.
Although Danielle didn’t make it into the women’s pistol finals on Thursday, everybody at the range knew her name.
Danielle came to the Games tryouts in December to vie for a spot on the rifle team, but was edged out by a few other competitors.
While she was shooting, the Yukon coach saw something special in her. He asked Danielle to stay after and got her to try firing a pistol.
It was the first time she had tried a pistol, and that was just four months ago.
“She’s familiar with shooting rifles and shotguns, but the pistol is new to her,” said Danielle’s mother Ellie, watching from the stands. “It’s a completely different way of shooting.”
Danielle is humble and quiet.
When questioned about her successes, she lets her long red bangs fall into her eyes and answers with short replies.
“They just handed the pistol to me so I started with it,” she said of her introduction to the sport.
“She seems to just keep going up and up and up — that’s a good sign,” added Darcy.
Danielle wowed audiences and coaches on Tuesday, with a second-place finish in the team pistol event.
Had she been shooting in the individual competition, she would have brought home a silver for the Yukon.
“She’s a natural,” said Yukon coach Ken Speiss. “I don’t know how high she can go yet because I’ve only had her for four months.”
On Thursday morning, butterflies got the better of the young shooter and she placed ninth in her field.
“A lot of nerves this morning,” said Speiss. “Just match pressure — something that she’s never had to shoot with before.”
Danielle’s teachers didn’t mind letting the Grade 9 honour student miss a few classes to train for the Games.
For the past month and a half, the family has been driving from Pelly to Whitehorse twice a week to shoot at the Grey Mountain range.
“It’s a lot of driving, I’m getting pretty tired,” said Darcy.
Was it worth it?
“Every mile,” he answered.
Danielle’s father and mother came down from Pelly to cheer her on from the stands, but it wasn’t always easy for them to watch.
“I don’t know who’s more nervous — us or her,” said Ellie.
“I got up to go to the bathroom at 3 a.m. and I’ve been up ever since,” added Darcy. “Just very excited, very excited for her.”
Danielle — or Danny, as her father calls her — developed a keen eye for shooting grouse when she was a small child.
“We’re hunters,” said Ellie. The family shoots together; even Danielle’s 11-year-old sister is not afraid to pull the trigger on a shotgun.
The young shooter has had her fair share of victories in the sport over the years.
For the past two years she’s won top-shot honours with the Junior Ranger Patrol.
Last summer she earned silver in the North American Indigenous Games, missing the gold by one point.
And on Friday, she’ll head to the Junior Ranger air-rifle competition in Yellowknife.
Bring shooting back to
the Arctic Winter Games
Shooting has been an Olympic sport since 1896.
But it was dropped from the Arctic Winter Games in 1998.
Now the Yukon coach is hoping to use the territory’s success at these Games as a springboard to bring the sport back into the Arctic competitions.
“I would hope that our success here would be the beginning of us getting back in there,” Speiss said on Thursday afternoon.
“It was one of the original sports — it doesn’t require permits, it doesn’t require licences, it doesn’t require one-on-one adult supervision, I don’t see why it can’t be back in the Games,” he said.
Shooting is a sport that represents the North, and the traditional skills needed to survive, said information officer Robert Mooney, who has a stack of silver ulus at home from past Arctic Winter Games.
“We have terrific coaches and good kids, but not the infrastructure for competitions.”
Mooney would like to see silhouette shooting in the Games, and the air rifle competitions.
“Shooting has been my only hobby pretty much,” said Mooney, now a member of the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club.
“I enjoy the sport, it teaches concentration and self-discipline and it’s rewarding,”