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Nunavut's ski team debuts at Arctic Winter Games

Athletes on the Nunavut ski team have been competing for only a couple of years. From right to left: Benoit Havard, Breton Didham, Callum Goddard, Igimaq Williamson Bathory, Gabriel Mossey and Shannon Chartré. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC - image credit)
Athletes on the Nunavut ski team have been competing for only a couple of years. From right to left: Benoit Havard, Breton Didham, Callum Goddard, Igimaq Williamson Bathory, Gabriel Mossey and Shannon Chartré. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC - image credit)

Watching his skiers cross the finish line, Nunavut coach Benoit Havard chokes up with emotion.

"I'm so proud, it's like winning the first place, it's amazing," he says, standing in cross-country stadium at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG), near Palmer, Alaska.

The Nunavut ski team is made up of four athletes, all of whom competed in the AWG for the first time.

"I haven't done any real competitive racing before," said 11-year-old Callum Goddard.

Goddard and his teammates have only been skiing a couple of years, but that didn't stop them from flying nearly four thousand kilometers to compete in these international, multi-sport games, alongside two thousand other participants from all over the circumpolar north.

His dad, Conor Goddard, said the team is excited to compete on an international stage.

"This club is very grassroots. They're coming here with the right foundation and the right attitude," he said.

"Just being here is kind of the win in itself."

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory has also traveled from Iqaluit to be here and cheer on her son, Igimaq, and the rest of the team.

"They've worked really hard to get to this point," she said.

"They have really talented coaches that have been mentoring them, very soundly and carefully and with a lot of love."

Members of the Nunavut ski team look on at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.
Members of the Nunavut ski team look on at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

Members of the Nunavut ski team look on at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Harvard says building a ski culture in Iqaluit is a grassroots effort. People do ski, he says, but typically in the spring when the weather is warmer and the snow conditions are more ideal.

His team for example, have only been out three times on skis so far this season, he says.

"They train like, in the gymnasium, running a little bit but they didn't really ski this year, it was – 50 and – 40 and the last skiing they did was – 35," said Havard.

The ski course and terrain in Alaska is different from what the team is used to at home, hilly, with sharp corners and lined with trees. Nonetheless, as each of the Nunavut skiers crosses the finish line, there are smiles all around.

Being at the back of the pack wasn't a problem for Breton Didham.

Catching his breath at the finish line he said he's proud of the effort and it was fun.

"It was good," said Didham, "I really liked it, I really liked the steep downhill, that was my favourite part."

Havard says this is not an experience they will ever forget and he's confident this is just the first step for this small ski team.

"I tell them that we already won this competition because we're here and they worked hard yeah, we made it happen."