AWG on horizon

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AWG five-piece polar bear puzzle pin.

Nearly 350 athletes representing 21 of the 33 communities throughout the NWT will be in attendance at this year's Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse from March 4 to 10.

Team NWT unveiled its 2012 games line of clothing and trading pins in Yellowknife at the Sport North office on Saturday.

Team NWT athletes will be supplied with the official walk-out uniform, consisting of a black and white jacket with a grey fur hood and orange pants. The design for the clothing was selected by athletes past and present who believe the combination of colours, style and design will be fitting for the temperature in Whitehorse, while at the same time capturing the spirit of the games, according to a Sport North e-mail.

The jacket’s unique and vast array of designs recognizes the diversity of the North and its people. The fur around the hood honours Northern trappers, who as pioneers have continued with their traditional lifestyle. The orange pants represent the midnight sun and the long, bright days that provide energy and vitality to our people, the e-mail continued.

The five-piece trading pin, which when assembled is in the shape of a polar bear, represents the athletes, coaches, mission staff, chef de mission and culture within the NWT.

Team NWT has many talented athletes who will compete in 19 separate sports. Individual stories of athletes overcoming challenges of limited resources, living in isolated communities and personal struggles will surely emerge as the games unfold.

Family matriarch Jane Charlie of Fort McPherson, who has five children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild competing in the sports of Dene games, hockey, dog mushing, snowshoeing and snowshoe biathlon, will be watching her family of athletes in Whitehorse.

Kynwill Gordon Ruben is a midget hockey defenceman from Paulatuk who, previous to attending the NWT selection camp in Yellowknife, had never skated on a non-natural ice surface.

Looking to set a new world record in the kneel jump, an Arctic sports event, is Veronica McDonald, 17, of Yellowknife who has been a competitor at the AWG since she was eight. Her mother, Meika McDonald, a previous world record holder in the Alaskan high kick, said "Veronica could do remarkably well."

Medals on the podium

Speedskaters and cross country skiers will also pose a threat to competitors and will likely be seen accepting medals on the podium.

A non-competitve aspect of every AWG is the importance of instilling respect among athletes for each other, the volunteers and families who work hard to ensure the games run smoothly and athletes are successful in their Arctic Winter Games journey.

Each year the AWG International Committee presents the Hodgson trophy to the contingent whose athletes best exemplify the ideals of fair play and team spirit. Team members also receive a distinctive pin in recognition of their accomplishment. The trophy is a piece of Inuit artwork donated to the AWG in 1978 by past Commissioner S.M. Hodgson of the Northwest Territories.

Team NWT has only brought home the coveted trophy twice, once in 1992 and again in 1996. Sport North KidSport co-ordinator Melanie Kornacki said the athletes have been made aware of the importance of representing NWT through showing respect to everyone involved and is hopeful that this year the team will make a strong enough impression to win the Hodgson trophy.

"We try hard for it every year and we certainly have many athletes that respect what the trophy stands for," she said.

On March 6 at the Goldrush Inn in Whitehorse a parents breakfast will be held beginning at 8 a.m.

Kornacki said the breakfast will provide an opportunity for all parents and supporters to purchase team NWT "swag" such as pins and clothing. The breakfast is also intended to celebrate parents who make the trip to cheer on the NWT.