Northern athletes undaunted by their challenges at Canada Games | NanaimoNewsNOW

Nunavut’s beach volleyball team, which mostly trains there indoors, went to both Halifax and Kelowna, BC in the weeks leading up to the Canada Games to acclimate to playing in high-temperature sand.

Such arrangements are not uncommon for northern athletes, who are often underdogs at the summer games.

Competitors from Canada’s three territories often face challenges that their provincial counterparts don’t see, such as limited recreational facilities, shorter summers and smaller team numbers.

Despite those hurdles, members of Nunavut’s beach volleyball team are fearless.

“We face a lot of challenges and obstacles, but when we overcome them and come here to play beach volleyball, it just shows that we are playing hard,” athlete McDonald said.

Usually the smallest at the Canada Games, Team Nunavut has won one bronze medal since it started competing in 2001.

It entered the judo, which is part of the program of the Winter Games, in 2007 in Whitehorse.

The area’s 2022 summer team, made up of 58 athletes, coaches, managers, youth ambassadors and mission personnel, will also compete in indoor volleyball and wrestling.

Athletes from the other northern areas also geared up for this month’s Canada Games.

Northwest Territories flag bearer and basketball player Mali Straker hopes her basketball team can upset a provincial squad.

“We’re just resilient,” she said of NWT athletes. “We work just as hard as other teams, if not more. We fight very hard.”

The 100-strong NWT team consists of 68 athletes in basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming, track and field, and indoor and beach volleyball.

“Our athletes are unique,” says their chef de mission Rita Mercredi.

“They are able to look beyond what other people see as challenges and seize them as opportunities and make sure it works for them.”

Mercredi hopes the athletes will have a memorable experience in Ontario, as COVID-19 has prevented some from participating in the past two years.

Niagara’s Canada Games have been postponed from 2021 to 2022 due to the pandemic.

NWT athletes have won a total of 22 medals at the Winter Games.

Yukon flag bearer and cyclist Mara Roldan, 18, is ready to race against older, more experienced athletes.

“I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself by specific results,” Roldan said.

“I really think it’s just going to be a good learning environment, a learning experience in general.”

Yukon athletes are disadvantaged in summer sports due to the short season in the area, but Roldan believes they can still compete at a high level.

“There is no limit to what we can do,” she said.

“I know I’ve done a lot more than I expected in the past year, pushing myself a little bit with the resources I have here in the Yukon and the help, and the people, and the support from the community.”

Roldan recently won gold at the 2022 Canadian Road Championships in the junior criterium.

She will also represent Canada at the 2022 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Les Gets, France, later this month.

Since Yukon entered the Canada Games in 1987, the athletes have won six medals in Summer Games and 46 in Winter Games.

Yukon athletes will compete in cycling, basketball, canoe, kayak, golf, soccer, swimming, volleyball and wrestling in the Niagara region,

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 6, 2022.

This story was made possible with financial support from the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Emily Blake, The Canadian Press

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