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Inuvik athletes ready for AWG trials
40 athletes in 10 sports travelling around the territory for tryouts

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 1, 2011

Next week, 40 young athletes from Inuvik will attempt to win a spot on the territorial teams for the Arctic Winter Games, but what some are calling an unfair playing field could mean most won't compete.

NNSL photo/graphic

Annika Krizan, left Rachel Watters, Winter Ross and Maya Krizan are four Inuvik figure skaters hoping to make it to the Arctic Winter Games. Trials start next week in Yellowknife. If they make it, will be the first time in 12 years figure skaters from Inuvik will attend the Arctic Winter Games. - Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison/NNSL photo

The trials will run from Dec. 8 to 11 in Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik for the Arctic Winter Games, which will be held in Whitehorse from March 4 to 12. The 40 athletes will compete in 10 different sports for the chance to represent the territory during the international competition, but the Beaufort Delta regional co-ordinator thinks the Inuvik athletes won't have a fair chance.

"I want the kids to have a fair shake. Our kids have to travel and they get in at all hours and then have to perform," said Theresa Ross, regional co-ordinator for the Beaufort Delta. "We just need to see more things come our way."

In addition to the travel stress athletes will face, Ross cited the financial burdens to teams coming from farther North. Teams have to find chaperones, then pay $100 to attend the trials. For out-of-town teams, the costs also included hotels and food for the four nights.

"Some athletes can't go because of the extra financial burden," Ross said. "Some communities struggle for years and hope to find ways to help kids in our communities."

Inuvik will host the basketball trials, Hay River will host biathlon, snowshoe biathlon and bantam hockey, and Fort McPherson will host snowshoeing and Yellowknife will host the remaining six sports: cross-country skiing, dog mushing, figure skating, midget and female hockey, indoor soccer and volleyball.

Inuvik Midget coach and president of NWT hockey Les Skinner agrees that the travel could have a detrimental effect on athletes during the trials.

"That's one of the disadvantages of flying in on a charter. They hit the ground running, get off the plane and a couple hours later play, maybe not that long. It's a long day and maybe they didn't get a good night sleep the night before," Skinner said. "Unfortunately we're at a bit of a disadvantage, but if the situation is right, the kids are going down there and will have a good opportunity to put their best foot forward."

Midget hockey will send four players, bantam hockey will send six and female hockey will send three. While Skinner has hopes for some of the older players, he also notes the experience will be good for players who are younger than the age group they're playing in, specifically the girls and some peewee players trying out for bantam.

"It's an opportunity for them to see how a camp and tryout is run, how to prepare, what's expected of athletes and get a feel for what the coaches want," Skinner said. "It's like a development camp for the younger ones and will be a good opportunity for them to see the process."

According to the coaches, another disadvantage for Inuvik and Beaufort Delta athletes are the lack of opportunities to play games, whether it's hockey, volleyball or soccer. While athletes have the skills from many hours of practice, it's the game sense learned from competition that they lack.

"Historically, two or three players make a team, and there hasn't been an Inuvik figure skater in a few years. It's just population," Ross said. "A good thing for the volleyball players are that the Arctic Winter Games people had a chance to see them at Spike It."

The Inuvik Figure Skating Club has put forward four figure skaters for the trials and brought up a professional coach for the year to get the athletes ready. Danyelle Ellis, from Ontario, has prepared the skaters both physically and mentally for the trials. They've practised 10 hours a week and are now going through simulations with an audience to run-through their performances.

"They've been training almost double the time then in other years," Ellis said. "We can only go out and do what we can. We're hoping for clean performances. It'll come down to who wants it the most."

On Dec. 3 at 6:30, the four skaters will have a practice of both their short and long presentations, in their outfits, which all members of the community are welcome to attend. The practice will get them ready for the crowds in Yellowknife and the six judges and three officials who will grade them.

Seven volleyball players from Inuvik will also attend the trials in Yellowknife. A volleyball club started in September to give the players more than two months to practise the sport. Coach Stacey Christie has spent the past few months focusing on skills, positioning and development of a team mentality.

"Our biggest challenge is that to compete at this level, they need to play more than two months of the year," Christie said. "They need to be active, touching the ball, throughout the year."

Some Inuvik players were scouted at the Spike It volleyball tournament in Yellowknife earlier in the year, while others had to fill out a reference and skills rating form to attend the trials.

The next Arctic Winter Game trials will be held from Jan. 27 to 29 for badminton, curling, Dene games, gymnastics, snowboarding, speed skating, table tennis, wrestling, snowshoeing and Arctic sports. Sport North will post updates on Twitter and Facebook throughout the trials.

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