The torch of the 2004 Arctic Winter Games may have been extinguished for the next 24 months, but the memories of the experience will burn forever in the hearts of the athletes, fans, volunteers, and reporters that shared the experience.
The experience of coming together with people of different nations and cultures to enjoy the fun of competition, the thrill of victory, and the eternal value of making new friends. In most athletic competitions it's about winning for the glory of country, state, city or school, but at the Arctic Winter Games it's about more then the taste of victory, it's about the fun of participating in an event that while similar, is unlike any other competition in the world.
Dancers from Yamal wave farewell until the next time.
There are gold, silver and bronze medals, fashioned after the ancient Ulu or Women's Knife, but no medal winners were more excited then the members of the girl's hockey team that scored their first goal ever in AWG competition. The crowd went crazy and you could hear the girls shouting, "We did it! We can score! We'll be back!"
There was the young boy from Yamal who entered the ATCO Plaza during opening ceremonies on the shoulders of one of his teammates so filled with joy and enthusiasm to be there, that he literally lit up the stadium and brought tears to the eyes of delegates from the Kenai Peninsula. Kids who had never seen a tree before thrilled to trade for a wooden 2006 AWG pin. When athletes were asked to compare the AWG competition to other events they had participated in such as state championships or school team games, without exception the answer was the same, "It's just more fun here, we play hard, but it's about the game and meeting new people."
The AWG Torch glows its last light in Alberta, Canada.
Team Alaska came home with 136 Gold Ulus, second only to Alberta North who bettered that achievement by only 2 with a total of 138, Yukon was a distant third earning 108 medals. The only other award given at the Games is the coveted Hodgson Trophy for sportsmanship. This year Team Nunavut won the trophy for the second time since they began competing at the AWG, "This award demonstrates that the Team Nunavut members have displayed respect for the rules, respect of officials and their decisions along with their opponents and being able to maintain self-control," said Gerry Thick, president of the AWG International Committee. The Hodgson Trophy is actually a piece of Inuit artwork, its main feature is a six foot high Narwhal tusk mounted on a soapstone base and decorated with scrimshaw. Team Alaska won the Hodgson Trophy in 1990.
Now the hopes of the athletes of the circumpolar nations are focused on the Kenai Peninsula and the year 2006, when once again the AWG torch will be lit and the experience will commence again. In receiving the official AWG flag for the coming Games, president of the 2006 Host Society and Borough Mayor Dale Bagley invited the world to come to the Kenai Peninsula and promised the best games ever.
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