Arctic Winter Games a family affair for Wills siblings

Arctic Winter Games a family affair for Wills siblings

The Arctic Winter Games are a family affair for siblings Brooklyn and Jordan Wills of Team Alberta North.

Mom Ashleigh is a missionary on the team and dad Cory has previously attended and trained at the Games. Two of the teens’ aunts were also competitors, and their grandmother is a Mission staff member who has trained and served as a judge.

So 13-year-old Brooklyn and her 15-year-old brother Jordan will not be short of advice ahead of their arctic sports competition. The week-long games begin Sunday in Wood Buffalo, Alta.

“The goal for them is to go in and get the experience, do their best and really understand what the games are about,” Ashleigh said.

The Games are a premier circumpolar youth sporting and cultural event. They were first held in Yellowknife in 1970.

The 2020 Games, which normally take place every two years, have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A planned return in 2022 has been pushed back to this year.

Arctic Winter Games International Committee President John Rodda said he was thrilled to have the event back on the calendar for the first time since 2018.

“It creates an awareness of the world outside of these small communities,” he said of Wood Buffalo. “It helps develop northern cultures. They take back a sense of pride that comes from the community.”

The 2020 event was canceled just days before it was scheduled to begin in Whitehorse.

“I know it was devastating for Jordan because he made that (team),” Ashleigh said in a recent interview from Grande Prairie, Alta. “Being 13 and not really knowing what you’re getting yourself into – the excitement was there. So that was hard to explain.

“But he came back with a vengeance for this year’s event and was very successful.”

Jordan’s specialty is the one-foot high kick, which requires athletes to leap off the ground and kick a hanging target before landing on the same leg.

Brooklyn’s favorite, meanwhile, is the Alaskan high kick, which involves an upkick similar to a hanging target.

Athletes must hold one foot with one hand, balance with the other hand, and extend the kicking foot up before using it to land.

Other competitions within the discipline include two-foot high kick, knee jump, sled jump, triple jump, arm pull, airplane stretch, one-handed reach, head pull, and ankle jump. Some events are not included at junior level.

“I’ve been talking to my dad and grandma about it and it looks like it’s going to be a really fun time,” Brooklyn said.

A total of 20 sports are on the program. Indoor summer sports like badminton, basketball and gymnastics are included, as well as traditional winter sports like curling, hockey, skiing and figure skating.

Another unique category is Dene Games, which encompass events rooted in traditional and cultural values. Finger pull, snow snake, stick pull and team competitions such as handheld and pole put are included.

In addition to Alberta North, teams from the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Alaska, Greenland, Nunavik in northern Quebec, as well as Indigenous Sami from Norway, Sweden and Finland will compete.

Around 2,100 competitors, coaches, mission staff and officials will be there.

The athletes are mainly between 10 and 19 years old, depending on the category and sport. Young adults also participate in the Arctic Sports and Dene Games competitions.

The Halluci Nation will lead the opening ceremony at MacDonald Island Park. The Canadian electronic music group was previously known as A Tribe Called Red.

Mat-Su Valley, Alaska is scheduled to host the next Arctic Winter Games in March 2024.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 26, 2023.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.



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