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  • Record Breaking

    The ice is fast at Harry J McDonald Memorial Centre in Eagle River for short track speed skating! Ola Gawlak of Team Alberta took the Gold Ulu today in Short Track Speed Skating when she skated the 1000m in one minute and 51.03 seconds. (1:51.03). Saiya McEachern of Team Northwest Territories also took home the Gold Ulu when he set the new Arctic Winter Games record in the juvenile U15 boys division. McEachern’s one minute, 46.52 seconds (1:46.52) is thirteen one hundredth’s of a second (0.13) faster than the former record set by Lucas Taggart-Cox in 2018. Taggart-Cox still holds three other records at the Arctic Winter Games. Tuesday saw more records set in speed skating including Team Alberta’s June Lynch who broke the U15 girls 400m record in her opening heat, only to skate even faster in the Semi Finals with a time of 42.09 seconds. Team Nunavut's Akutaq Williamson-Bathory broke an eighteen year old AWG record in the junior girls under 19, 500m. Her 48.84 seconds surpasses (NWT) Jill Gilday’s 49.1 from 2006. Jill’s Dad, Assistant Referee David Gilday of Yellowknife was on the ice as it happened, as was Akutaq’s ataata (father) Stephen, the Chief Track Stewart. Speed skating resumes Thursday morning at 9am and again on Friday, where there’s potential for more records to be smashed, and more hope for athletes to continue rising strong.

  • Team Sapmi

    Team Sápmi promotes culture through sports - Misty Gilland The Sámi celebrate sports as part of culture; witness their events of reindeer racing, lasso kasting, and cross country skiing. The purpose of the Sámi Sports Association, Sámi Valáštallan Lihttu, is “to promote Sámi traditions, cultural interaction, and friendship through sport.” Sápmi is the name for the traditional territory in which the Sámi people live.  Sápmi land spreads across the northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Within that area are 50,000 to 100,000 Sámi people, speaking as many as nine distinct dialects. The Sámi lived on the land long before European national boundaries were established, and are governed by their own elected parliaments that act nationally and across national borders. They came together in 2000 to form a Sámi Parliamentary Council which serves as a joint council for the people. Team Sápmi is participating in two sports at the Arctic Winter Games 2024: cross country ski and futsal. The Sápmi ski team spent a year preparing for the 2024 Arctic Winter Games, choosing eighteen skiers and nineteen futsal players. Most of the skiers were selected based on results from the Sámi Skiing Championships held in Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino) Norway.  Sámi youth have come to compete, but also to strengthen the unity of and pride in the Sámi culture and to network with other northern cultures. Be sure to ask the players and fans about their heritage and homeland. Just do not ask about how many reindeer they may own - It is considered very rude. Good Luck Team Sápmi! Information in this article was sourced from the following websites: Aslak. (2023, November 28). AWG skiløpere er utpekt. SVL. https://svl.no/cuoigan-viehkan-ja-njoarostan-lihttu/awg-skilopere-er-utpekt/ Cleaver, K. (2023, February 28). The fast and furious world of reindeer racing. The Spectator. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-fast-and-furious-world-of-reindeer-racing/ CONIFA. (2022, January 21). SAPMI | CONIFA. https://www.conifa.org/en/members/sapmi/ IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. (2023, March 24). Sápmi - IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. https://www.iwgia.org/en/sapmi.html SVL. (2023, March 24). Arctic Winter Games - SVL. https://svl.no/sami-valastallan-lihttu/arctic-winter-games/ SVL. (n.d.). Sámi Valástallan Lihttu Archives - SVL. https://svl.no/nyheter/sami-valastallan-lihttu/

  • Team Nunavik Finds Their Power at AWG

    Team Nunavik arrived at the Mat-Su Arctic Winter Games from villages within the Northern parts of the Quebec Territory in Canada. Team Nunavik consists of 54 athletes and 6 cultural performers and supported by 11 coaches, two cultural managers, and eight mission staff. Team Nunavik can be recognized by their lime green jackets and black pants.  Their flag is from Quebec Province. (Nunavik Territory’s flag is similar to Quebec’s flag except with a stylized fleurs-de-lis.) On the AWG2024.org website, Nunavik Team writes that the sentiment of cultural pride is also felt by many community members.  A video shows community members cheering on the team and reminding them to take pride in who they are, where they come from, and their cultural heritage. “You are part of a big family, so be proud of it.  You are not only representing yourself, but you're representing your family, your community, and your region…Team Nunavik FIND YOUR POWER!“ According to the team’s website, “...Team Nunavik–Québec has been growing stronger and stronger, both in terms of athletic performance as well as organization…Athletes that become part of Team Nunavik–Québec are selected based on athletic performance, good sportsmanship and leadership qualities.” The Nunavik region has been participating in the Arctic Winter Games since 1972. This year's games are the team’s 16th Arctic Winter Games. The Nunavik team likes to share their culture and competitive spirit.  Team Nunavik has participants in the cultural performances, the Dene Games and other AWG sports. The team wants to have fun and to do their best in the competitions. So far in the 2024 Mat-Su Arctic Winter Games, the team has earned 23 medals, six gold, 10 silver and seven bronze. Nunavik means the Great Land in the local dialect Inuktitut.  It is the homeland of the Inuit of Quebec. The region is the northern half of the Nord-du-Québec region and includes all the territory north of the 55th parallel. It is an extremely large and sparsely populated region with only 14 villages. There are no road links between Nunavik and southern Quebec. Fans are invited to show their team support and to send messages of encouragement on social media: @TeamNunaviukQuebec.

  • Team Alaska Gets the Gold!

    They swarmed around the rink, rocketing dozens of rubber pucks against the glass. We could feel their energy, swinging to the same beat of the overhead loudspeakers, cheering on our favorite players who we hoped would be champions in tonight’s male hockey finals between Team Alaska and the Northwest Territories. Almost superhuman, they slide to the center.  The first slapshot strikes the goalie, sending families, friends, and visitors into a symphony of applause. A scattered cluster slams against a corner, a helpless puck beneath their blades.  Their sticks cross, slashing mercilessly at each other’s feet.  They break free, gliding to the opposite side, Team Northwest Territories’ protected goal.  It’s a score for Team Alaska! They chase the puck from one end to the next as if it has a mind of its own.  Another slapshot into the goal!  The referees convene in a sudden silence as the ice clears of players, and they wait to hear the final verdict for the shot.  Heroically, the announcer booms, “It’s another goal for Team Alaska!” Alaska’s fans leap in excitement as a blue-jacketed fan runs down the first row of the stadium, waving Alaska’s flag with pride and joy. The rest of the first period is a mad rush of encounters.  They slam, slide, and slapshot at every move.  From the balcony, it sounds like bullwhips crackling below.  From the lowest front row seats, they are more like the popping of a small caliber rifle. The crowd screamed with the announcer’s booming voice, leading off the second period.  The score is already 4 to 0, a score that holds throughout the period. Coasting back to the center of the ring, then fanning out to Team Alaska’s home goalie, the Northwest Territories strike their first goal! Bursting into action, it’s a warzone of players, a race with every inch of their strength. Team Alaska sweeps the puck away from the Northwest Territories, hurling it into the goal.  Another point!  It was hard-fought through many penalties, through scrambling and scuffling and any number of aggressive scraps to change the odds for NWT, but here they shoot their shot and strike a fair point. NWT fires back into action, speeding ahead to defend their goal.  It’s well-defended, but a player for the blue and gold sweeps another slapshot into the net.  “Team Alaska Goals!  They never die!” bellows an elated announcer.  An aroused audience erupts with a rolling chant for Team Alaska! Players stare each other down after a penalty.  The puck rolls carelessly into the clutches of an NWT player.  His slapshot sends it flying at the goalie for Alaska.  He saves it with a quick reaction, locking his left knee to the ice, sending it skittering back at the Northwest players.  The period ends a score of 6 to 1, one period closer to victory! Someone blares a horn at the start.  Northwest Territories has the puck—they swing and miss by a hair!  They make the attempt again and again, hewing chunks of ice from the ring, but to no avail.  Alaska surrounds them, chucking the puck away. It's an attack and retreat for Team Alaska, swift and effective.  NWT encircles, now swarms in, now fights for life!  Alaska nearly scores, but NWT is aggressive.  They are battling for their ground. Players clash in arm locks.  It’s a shuffle back to the goal, and to another penalty. In front, behind, and around the Northwest goal, Team Alaska fires another shot.  Another goal! 3 minutes away from the end of the game is a chaotic scramble after the puck.  Another score for Team Alaska happens in a flash to the amazement of her fans!  The countdown strikes.  Team Alaska clearly wins, leaving a rink littered with gloves and helmets among their surrendered hockey-sticks. We turn to the flag of our nation.  Team Alaska hums the old melody, “Oh, say, can you see?”  We turn to these athletes now.  Oh, say, can you see our champions?  Sons, grandsons, brothers, and friends?  We see heroes in the making as they have gold medals hung around their necks.  Turning to the Northwest Territories, we see tomorrow’s champions, silver medalists after a well-played game.

  • One Local Organization is Feeding 2000 Visiting Games Athletes While Simultaneously Keeping Hungry Kids Fed Across Alaska

    How the heck does the 2024 Arctic Winter Games host society feed all these hungry athletes? It takes a village to feed all those athletes and one local community non-profit answered the call providing the Arctic Winter Games villages with 200-600 sack lunches made daily using only the freshest ingredients. What’s more, Kids Kupboard is still serving their regular 400 to 500 meals to communities across the Matanuska Valley from Willow to Sutton and beyond to reach hungry kids across the last frontier. If you are following the math, that’s anywhere between 600 to 1100 fresh-made meals, they make to feed the community on a given day. At the core of Kids Kupboard's success is its passionate and committed staff, working tirelessly to address the urgent needs of vulnerable children dealing with food insecurity. These individuals, driven by a shared mission, understand the profound impact that a nutritious meal can have on a child's physical and emotional well-being. After reaching out to Kids Kupboard I got the chance to talk with Chris Haugom the operations manager who shared how valuable this experience has been for him and for Kids Kupboard. Chris shared “this has been lots of fun and that it has been great to see the community come together for this event”. After talking with Chris it was evident that the staff and volunteers of Kids Kupboard are like a tight knit family. Chris gave credit to his team of eight to ten regular volunteers as well as staff who have helped make all these fresh meals possible each day. In a unique twist I would find out later that Chris was an Arctic Winter Games celebrity in his own right having won the golden ulu in the 1990 games in Yellowknife for indoor soccer. Talk about giving back to the athletes after all these years. One of the core aspects of the 2024 Mat-Su Arctic Winter Games is community. Kids Kupboard’s valiant effort to continue feeding Alaskans while also providing fresh, nutritiously balanced meals for our visiting athletes and the wider community throughout this event is what the games showcase. Kids Kupboard operates on a fundamental belief in the strength of community. For this non-profit it is not just about filling stomachs; it's about building a network of care and support around children who need it the most as well as ending food insecurity for all Alaskan children.

  • The Village Mayors

    While many of us are out basking in the sun watching Alpine Ski, Snowshoe, and other events, a dedicated group of people are making sure everything is running smoothly at the Participant Villages. There are six Participant Villages – at Palmer, Wasilla, and Colony middle and high schools. Each has its own “Mayor”. “My wife and I have been involved with the Arctic Winter Games for two years,” said Cory Smith, Mayor of the village at Palmer Junior Middle School. “We chose to help out as Mayors at this school because we know the layout.  We had four kids go through this school, and my wife worked here.” He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). “We have six congregations in Palmer and eight in Wasilla. When the call went out for volunteers to set up beds, we knew we could do it with all our congregations.” They were able to supply 600 people to help set them up, and they’ll be taking them down this weekend. “Mostly we try to get answers to everyone,” he said. This was demonstrated as he helped two participants with getting the bus to the winter carnival, another that needed a key, and received information on whether plumbing was fixed in a shower – or not. “And I would like to give a big thank you to all the people volunteering their time and talent. Arctic Winter Games could never have done this without every volunteer." Over at the Palmer High School Participant Village, Tonya Loyer and Leslie Norris were manning the Mayor’s office. The big office windows looked out at two big posters of the bus routes available to the participants to get around. “We’re the point of contact,” said Tonya. “And the Door Dash stop.” They also hold the key to rooms. Rooms may have up to eight people, but there is only one key. “So we need to go with the person to open the room.” The two of them man the mid-day shift from 11 am to 5 pm. A husband and wife team take the morning shift from 5:30 am to 11:30 am, and another volunteer takes the night shift from 4:30 to 11 pm. Curfew for participants is 11 pm. “We’ve got feedback about how well everything is run,” said Tonya. “Although we did get a complaint that the bus actually left right on time,” chimed in Leslie, “it wasn’t even one minute late.” If you are going to Palmer High to watch futsal, or to one of the other Participant Villages where events are held, take a moment to say “thanks” to the Mayors.

  • Skating at the mac

    The skating action at the Harry MacDonald Center in Eagle River shifted on Wednesday from Speed Skating to Figure Skating with 31 athletes entering the first rounds of competition. Participants in the events are divided into four levels of skills and ages. The largest group in this year’s Games are in level one with 13 competitors and level two with 11. The figure skating competition is female only at the Games. Sarah Deveroux McCormick, Figure Skating Sports chair, explained that the Wednesday games saw the skaters compete in the short program. The short program includes required technical elements. On Thursday, skaters competed in the free skate and on Friday the team compulsory event will cap the event. Depending on the level of the competition, the elements performed by the skaters will vary with difficulty increasing with the level of competition. With different countries attending the games, the “tech package” used by the judges is designed to accommodate differences in the host countries' packages. “As you watch the higher level skaters you’ll be seeing the elements with a twist…the variety of difficulty changes as they move up”, said Deveroux McComick. A skater in Games in the 1990s and a former coach, she said she has “amazing memories” of those experiences. “What’s really cool is the spirit among the coaches and the athletes fits my recollection, that camaraderie and team spirit is really cool,” she said. Thursday skating action began with the return of Speed Skating with the 500 meter and 777 meter events running from 8 am until 2 pm. Then at 3:15 p.m. the Figure Skating competition returned with Free Skate rounds for all four levels of skaters. Friday’s Speed Skating events also start at 8 a.m. and are ticketed events for the 1500 meter and 3000 meter skates. Figure Skating will return on Friday at 3pm. with the Team Compulsory event.

  • The Ulu

    The ulu has been used to clean skins, cut up meat, filet fish, make clothes, cut hair, trim blocks of ice, and more. There is a deep culture around the ulu we don't hear of often. The ulu has a history in the Yup'ik, Aleut, Dene, and Inuit cultures in Alaska, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) and Canada. Their history is said to span from more than 5,000 years ago. Historically, the ulu was made of slate, quartzite or shale for the blade with ivory, wood, antler, horn, or bone for the handle. Some Canadian Inuit used native copper for the blade. The curve of the ulu blade ensures the force is centered. The shape of an ulu may tell you from what culture or area it originated. In the Alaskan Inupiat style, the centerpiece of the blade is cut out and the handle is fitted to both edges of the blade. Styles found in the West Greenland have the blade attached to the handle by a single stem. In the far north and northwest of Alaska are triangular blades, while in the Northwest Territories and West Greenland ulus may be a combination of triangular blades attached to the handle by a thin stem. In Eastern Greenlandic, styles with pointed blade ends may be found. As the ulu was mainly used by women, to get an ulu passed down from your mother and grandmother was an honor. Inuit rights activist Shelia Watt-Cloutier has noted that when an Inuk woman dies, her ulu retains her energy, making ulus powerful spiritual objects. The ulu itself is a unique implement which makes Inuit culture and traditions very rich and very much alive. Using an ulu is one of the ways that Inuit women connect to Inuit culture as well as give back to it. The ulu has been integrated into the modern day culinary world. Many who use the ulu in their homes or restaurants appreciate the curved blade, which allows for easier handling and chopping, and the comfortable handle allows for less stress and fatigue in the hands.

  • Cultural Gala Connects Past, Present, and Future

    When the last rays of the day’s sun paint the tops of the Chugach mountain range the Glenn Massay Theater comes alive with the Arctic Winter Games Cultural Gala. Every Arctic Winter Game holds a Cultural Gala. Galas are theatrical representations of the different cultures represented in the Games. Each team has a performance troupe in addition to the athletes. The performers practice all week for the final Gala. Over the last five days, troupes have held live practices in pop-up performances around the Mat-Su. The Mat-Su Winter Arctic Winter Games’ theme ‘Rising Strong Together’ is the heart of  Friday’s gala. Gala directors Erin Tripp and Rio Alberto say in the Gala program that the stage holds the Northern People’s past, present and future. “We hope that you feel that sense of connection as you hear the voices lifted and hear the drum beating.” Friday’s Gala decorations turn the Glenn Massay Theatre into the Auroras. The audience will feel as if they have been invited to grab hold of a ribbon of the Aurora and travel the circumpolar North as the lights touch down in different lands. Galas interconnect all of the Northern cultures represented in the Games. On Friday the audience can look forward to a variety of performances, from powwow dancing from Alberta North to yoiks from the Sami performers.  Together they rise - voices from across the North. Rising strong as they sing and dance their way into the hearts and imaginations of the audience. Tickets for the 3 p.m. matinee are still available at tickets.awg2024.org.

  • 5 Merch Must Haves

    As game week comes closer to the end, let's touch on some amazing merchandise that is available for purchase! Hockey Pucks - coming in at the bottom of our list but not for the reason you think! The hockey puck is just 1 inch thick and 3  inches around, featuring this year’s AWG logo. It's at the bottom of our list due to its late arrival. As it has become more readily available, it has quickly become a crowd favorite and is flying off the shelf! Fishe Cap - with blue tones and an aquatic feel, and is quickly being noticed for its gentle colors. It pairs well with the tote bag of the same design! Contingent Sweatpants - these sweatpants have been walking off the tables faster than our volunteers are able to restock. These sweatpants feature the flags of all the teams that have come out to participate in this year's Arctic Winter Games. Chickadee Crew Neck Sweatshirt - if you are looking for this sweatshirt in the soft blue-teal or soft lavender color, you might be disappointed. These sweatshirts were off the hangers before they could get them up. With Arctic Winter Games written on the front and beautiful black-capped chickadees hovering in the corners, it is the second best seller this week. Pins - this might not come as a shocker, but this year's ultimate must-have item are PINS! Not only is pin trading considered the 21st sport of the AWG, it is also a great way to make connections and interact with all contingents. There are an array of sport related pins as well as contingent sets available. Deal of the week!! All who purchase a scarf will get a free, yes FREE, pair of gloves! Find your nearest merchandise shops now!

  • Futsal Gets aggressive as the competition heats up

    At 12pm, female U16 teams Nunavut and Yukon faced off.  The first half unfolded at a slow pace, lacking many thrilling moments. The half concluded with Yukon leading 3-0. As the second half commenced, both teams ramped up their intensity, resulting in a much faster paced game. Yukon ultimately secured victory with a score of 10-0. At 1pm, male U16 teams Sápmi and Northwest Territories took the court. The match kicked off with a rapid pace in the first half, with Team Sápmi taking a commanding 7-0 lead. The momentum carried over into the second half, with Team Sápmi maintaining their dominance and ultimately winning 12-0. At 2pm male U18 teams Alaska and Nunavut clashed in a fiercely competitive game from start to finish. The match was marked by a high tempo and aggressive play throughout. Team Nunavut’s repeated fouls resulted in numerous free shots on goal for Team Alaska. Amidst the fierce play, a particularly aggressive incident led to a red card for a Nunavut player, leaving their team a player short until halftime. Despite the challenges, Team Nunavut managed to end the half with a 3-2 edge. However, tensions remained high throughout the second half, with confrontations between players and heated exchanges between coaches and referees. The tension from the game even carried into the crowd,resulting in volunteers standing between fan sections as a precaution. Nunavut held their lead and won this fierce matchup 6-3. After the game referee Nathan Grey said in response to the question ‘how do you handle a game as heated as this?’. He stated, “You wanna make sure you stay fair and be aware that some players might lose their cool…you have to have wits about you… as a ref you live for these games.”

  • First you Plank, then you Hop

    Imagine lying in the snow, hunting seals on a winter's day. You lie motionless, with your harpoon positioned under your chest crossways.  Gripping the harpoon with your knuckles on the ground, you begin to move forward in a seal-like motion, utilizing a combination of knuckle and toe pushes toward your target while maintaining the starting position of a full push-up. The sport requires incredible core strength, endurance and physical prowess. The participants made this challenging task appear effortless. Yet, it is anything but. At the Mat-Su 2024 AWG, athletes happily embraced the challenge of knuckle hop, with an excited crowd rallying behind them. Colony Middle School Gymnasium buzzed with energy as spectators filled every available seat, the audience eager for knuckle hop to begin. The atmosphere crackled with electricity as cheers, applause, and even imitation seal barks and honks echoed through the gym. As each contestant assumed their starting position, a hush fell over the crowd, giving their full focus to the athletes. Once the athletes began their journey across the floor, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, their fervor intensifying with every meter covered, their eyes fixed on the tape track guiding the athletes forward. Officials meticulously observed the athletes’ form, ensuring athletes didn’t break from the required parallel position to the floor.  Any deviation from this form resulted in a halt, with the athlete's distance being measured from that spot. Among the crowd favorites was Kyle Worl, representing Alaska, whose father had previously set the world record for knuckle hop. Kyle’s remarkable performance earned him the Gold Ulu, traveling an impressive 47.854 meters. Inuuteq Josefsen from Kalallit Nunaat, claimed silver with 41.129 meters, while Parker Kenick from Alaska secured bronze with a distance of 26.213 meters.  Congratulations to all the athletes, coaches and support teams on a job well done.

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