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Kivalliq wins big at sport awards

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Mar 30/05) - Her team may have dazzled the Olympic judges and won a Bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but Kirstin Normand told a group of athletes gathered in Iqaluit for the Sport Nunavut Awards banquet on March 19 that she had never been so nervous in her entire life.

Kirstin Normand, 2000 Olympic bronze medalist for synchronized swimming, left, let Kelli McLarty, the Sport Nunavut Female athlete of the year for 2004, wear her bronze medal. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo

Rankin Inlet's Kelli McLarty could relate to Normand's story.

"I know what she means," said McLarty, a badminton player, who hung on Normand's every word and who later in the evening was named Female Athlete of the Year for 2004.

"At the AWG (Arctic Winter Games) I was running back so fast, I fell down," McLarty recalls of the nerve-wracking gold medal badminton round in Fort McMurray, Alberta last year.

"I get so nervous," she said.

But McLarty still won a silver medal for badminton at the AWG, the only person from Nunavut to do so that year.

Now, after years of hard work on the badminton court, and hearing Kirstin Normand's inspirational speech in Iqaluit, McLarty has her sights set on the Olympics too.

"I want to play in the Olympics, that is my dream," said McLarty. "(Normand) was really motivating. She said, 'If you have a goal you should take it on.' I believe in that. I worked really hard in school and really hard in badminton."

Other awards

McLarty wasn't the only athlete from the Kivalliq to bring home an award from the banquet.

John Ray Mariq from Baker Lake was named 2004 Male Athlete of the Year.

Brad Mainse, also from Baker, was named 2004 Coach of the Year.

The 2004 team of the Year was the Arctic Winter Games team and their coaches.

For a 16 year-old like McLarty, the awards confirmed she is on the right track.

She hopes to be a positive role model for other youth with her continued success in a sport she loves. With confidence gained through sports, McLarty is also heading to Botswana for seven weeks this summer with the Nunavut Youth Abroad Program.

While McLarty acknowledges the Kivalliq produces many powerhouse sports figures, she says there is a strong love of sports throughout Nunavut in every community she has visited, from her hometown of Rankin Inlet to Baker Lake to Cape Dorset and Kugluktuk.

"Everyone is talented across the regions. All the youth are all very talented and work hard," said McLarty. "That is why I was overwhelmed the award was given to me."