Nunavut’s wrestling team is headed to Winnipeg Saturday to compete at the Canada Summer Games.
The Games, which are taking place from July 28 to August 13, feature 16 sports, but Nunavut is only sending a wrestling team.
“You can bring athletes further along in an individual sport,” said wrestling team coach Chris Crooks.
“Nunavut can be most competitive in individual sports, it is more difficult to get a team together, just due to numbers.”
The small team of eight athletes has been building their skills in Rankin Inlet for the past few days in preparation for the games. It will continue with their last-minute training in Winnipeg in the days leading up to the competition.
The wrestlers will compete from Aug. 9 to 11. Youth ambassadors from Nunavut are also volunteering at the Games.
The wrestling team’s youngest member, Manuel Netser, is 15 years old and looking forward to all aspects of the competition. He says he’s excited to meet new people, test his skills, and buy some toys and food to bring home to Rankin Inlet.
“I found out that my dad used to wrestle, so I told myself I am going to try my best at this sport and see if it improves me physically and mentally, because it’s better to challenge yourself,” Netser said.
Small team, big hurdles
Coach Crooks says most of the team’s athletes come from Rankin Inlet, which is one of the few Nunavut communities with a wrestling mat to practise on. Mats cost about $10,000 and another $5,000 to ship north, Crooks says.
He says coaches are often only in a community for a few years, so unless there are athletes who’ve learned enough to pick up the baton, interest in the sport waxes and wanes.
Last month, Crooks took the team to a wrestling training camp in Jasper, Alta., to help them prepare for the Games.