Thomas Levi of Nunavut competing in the Dene Games Snow Snake competition Monday at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai
Photo By Charles Pullman
The Arctic sports are in motion and literally kicking into gear.
Both the Dene and Inuit Games started Monday morning at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai and Kenai Central High School. The Dene Games, which feature events such as the Stick Pull or Finger Pull, began with the Snow Snake event.
During the Snow Snake competition, an athlete is given a smooth pole or stick that he or she must release or throw onto the snow without crossing a line. The pole slides on the snow and whoever’s goes the farthest is the winner. Each athlete is given three opportunities to throw.
“It is not really about power, but more finesse than anything,” Snow Snake athlete Thomas Levi said.
A Nunavut team member, Levi is participating in his second Arctic Winter Games. His second throw of 337 feet, four-inches notched him a second place finish in the Men’s Open category and also gave him the second longest throw of the day.
“We’ve been practicing since November for this event. I’m pretty psyched about my throwsIt’s really exciting,” Levi said.
Levi also said the event seems to be drawing more interest for others who watch and take part in the Dene Games. “This year we had enough kids turn out to bring a junior team for this [Snow Snake] competition. We have been trying in the past to get kids more involved,” Levi said.
Steven Ribbonley of Alberta won the Open Men’s Snow Snake with a throw of 375 feet, nine-inches, Levi placed second, and William Hubloo of Nunavik was third with a throw of 319-6 which edged Jason Leonard of Yukon who finished fourth with a throw of 317-10.
Whereas Dene Games have serious mental and strength aspects, Inuit Games throw total athleticism into the mix.
The One Foot High Kick for example, is a competition where an athlete must jump off two feet, kick a seal-skin ball with one foot, and land on the same foot that touched the ball. The record for this event is held by Jesse Frankson of Point Hope who kicked 9 feet, eight-inches in the 2004 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Fairbanks.
Monday, there was an opening ceremony session before the Kneel Jump, One-Hand Reach and Arm Pull events took place.
Special guest Joe Allan Evyagotailak, of Nunavut, returned to his fifth Arctic Winter Games during the opening ceremonies for the Inuit Games. He also officiated many of the different Inuit or Arctic sports in the 1980s.
“I’m very glad to be here representing Nunavut,” Evyagotailak said, “I want all the athletes this year to just enjoy themselves and have fun.”
Evyagotailak’s main focus was to make sure that everyone participating was involved.
“The opening ceremonies for the (Inuit) games were very important because it got everyone involvedThis is a once in a lifetime thing, so it’s very exciting,” Evyagotailak said.
With the larger variety of events, the Inuit Games have many athletes who are participating in several events.
Steve Kotokak, a Northwest Territories junior team member, is registered in the One-Foot High Kick, Two-Foot High Kick, Alaskan High Kick, and the Kneel Jump.
“I think its going to be pretty good week. There are really good athletes from all around,” Kotokak said.
“I may have some trouble, though, because I didn’t practice all my events as much as I should have,” Kotokak added.
The Inuit Games wrap up Thursday with the showcase One Foot High Kick and Knuckle Hop events, while the Dene Games conclude Friday with the Pole Push.
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