N.W.T athletes are excited and ready to compete in the Arctic Winter Games

River Whitehead is getting ready to compete in the Arctic Winter Games. He said on a scale of one to 10 he’s at a 20 in terms of excitement. (Travis Burke)

By Mah Noor Mubarik · CBC News

Excitement levels are peaking for young athletes heading off to compete in the Arctic Winter Games.

The sport competition for 11-18-year-old northern and arctic athletes will take place this year in Alaska and see athletes competing in sports such as hockey, skiing, and snowshoe biathlon.

“I feel like everybody from the north is getting ready for this moment,” said River Whitehead, who will compete in boys hockey at the games.

“Opening ceremonies, you’re just going to get goose bumps. And then as soon as you step foot on the ice, I feel like [I’m] just going to be nervous. And then you’re going to be excited as soon as you get that first play in that first pass or that first shot.”

That feeling of excitement hits close to home for other athletes as well.

‘We can definitely do some damage and bring home that gold’

“We have a great group of guys, and if we all believe we can win, we can definitely do some damage and bring home that gold,” said Cormac Stewart, who will also be competing in boys hockey at the games.

He’s most looking forward to the competition and meeting new people, he said.

“It’s a good, great opportunity to be a part of something that is really unique around the world and just lucky to be part of it,” said Stewart, who competed in cross cross-country skiing at the games last year.

The excitement follows months of hard work and preparation for many athletes.

Sophia Touesnard, a Hay River athlete, has been training to get ready for the Arctic Winter Games. (Travis Burke)

Whitehead and his teammates practice on the ice five times a week, he said. They also do additional training to help with the sport.

“We work on, like, agility and speed, and … some days we lift weights too just for strength building,” he said.

Nate Harris, one of Whitehead’s teammates this year, said he competed as a goalie in the last Arctic Winter Games.

Since then, he’s been working on improving his skating and puck tracking.

“[I’m] just doing everything I can, so I’m at my best,” he said.

‘A really cool opportunity’

Sophia Touesnard from Hay River has also been working to get herself ready for the games.

“Snow shoes are pretty heavy,” she said. “I get really tight in my calves and my thighs. So stretching is, like, a huge game changer for me. I’m also a swimmer and a speed skater, so that has been great for cross-training,” she said.

For around two months, she’s also been snowshoeing around three times a week to get ready for the games and is looking forward to the competition.

“I feel like it’s going to be a really cool opportunity,” she said.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Dozens of Nunavut athletes in passport limbo as Arctic Winter Games approach, CBC News

Finland: Ice fishing World Championships latest in Finnish series of odd sports events, Yle News

United States: Veteran musher Brent Sass wins Yukon Quest 300, CBC News

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