Team Nunavut aims for gold

Arctic Winter Games athletes excited en route to Whitehorse
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Kyle Hainnu, 17, of Clyde River and most of his
teammates shaved their hair as a
team bonding experience.

Surrounded by teammates at the Iqaluit airport March 3, Derek Hainnu of Clyde River was looking forward to representing Nunavut at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse.

"I just want the gold," said the basketball guard, whose cousin Kyle is also on the team.

Hainnu will be recognizable from behind as he has Team Nunavut shaved in his hair, while others asked the barber for basketballs and inuksuit.

"We believe in ourselves," said Emmanuel Omole of Iqaluit. "We trust our coach. We trust each other. We worked hard for this."

Team Nunavut members from all sports and from many communities across the territory were at the Iqaluit airport before boarding a charter ahead of the games, which started Sunday and run until Saturday.

Natashia Allakariallak, 16, of Iqaluit, but who attends high school in Kitchener, Ontario, is joining her father – Inuksuk High School vice-principal and coach Romeyn Stevenson – on Team Nunavut.

"I think we're really strong," said the soccer player, who arrived two days before leaving again. "I had a lot of rest last night and I’ll sleep on the plane. It’s overwhelming but exciting."

Allakariallak joins three girls and a coach from the territorial champions, Cape Dorset.

"They practice hard, they love soccer and they give it their all," said coach Taukie Taukie, explaining why Cape Dorset had such a strong representation in soccer. "They’re really determined and bright young girls."

Mission staff member Gary Wong of Iqaluit is looking forward to seeing his son, who medaled in badminton in 2010, compete again. With players from all over Nunavut, two of them only 11-years-old, he said badminton may be the sport to watch.

"Their coach Attila Csaba was a national coach at one time and they've traditionally fielded a strong team," Wong said. "It’s all about being prepared and doing your best. They're all very excited."