Alaska well-represented at 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Canada

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:41 AM AKST
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WOOD BUFFALO, Alberta (KTUU) - More than 200 Alaskan athletes representing 34 communities across the state will be playing 18 different sports at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo this week.

“Man, seeing so many kids representing Alaska, gosh, it’s going to be a whole lot of fun,” Juneau’s Jordan Bennett said. The 17-year-old is competing in one-foot, two-foot and Alaska high-kick at the Arctic Games.

The biennial games welcome some of the top athletes, between the ages of 11 to 18, from the Circumpolar North to compete in up to 20 different sports over seven days of competition and celebration.

“Everyone tells me it is like a super fun, cool thing that not a lot of people get to do, so I am excited,” Lena Wiegand said. Wiegand, 14, is competing in futsal, also known as indoor soccer.

Nearly all of Alaska is represented, including the likes of small Alaska communities such as Savoonga and Unalakleet, where Jayrez Newhall and Kael Erickson are ready to represent Team Alaska basketball in Canada.

“I feel like we might have a small team compared to others,” Erickson, of Unalakleet, said.

“Yeah, should be some good competition. We’ll give it our all though,” Newhall, of Savoogna, added.

While there is no shortage of competition, there is a lot more packed into the seven days.

“Honestly, the athletics is probably almost secondary to just the experience that they get to have at the games, there is a lot of cultural exchange that happens,” Team Alaska Chef De Mission Sarah Frampton said. “They get just to learn about their different cultures and where they’re from and they get exchange pins, stories, uniforms.”

The Arctic Winter Games began in 1970 and Alaska has hosted the games on multiple occasions, with stops in Anchorage (1974), Fairbanks (1982, 1988, 2014), Chugiak/Eagle River (1996), and the Kenai Peninsula Borough (2006). The Matanuska-Susitna Borough will prepare to host the games for the first time in 2024.

”We are super pumped to have the games back on our home turf,” Frampton said. “... What’s really cool is we get to ride this wave from ‘23 straight into ‘24, because usually the games are every other year ... What’s neat for 2024 is we are not restricted by our charter size, so we are going to try to bring as full of a contingent as possible and try to represent every sport we can that Arctic Winter Games allows.”

The 2023 Arctic Winter Games run through Saturday. Followers can see the schedule and results on the event’s website and keep up with Team Alaska on the team’s Facebook page.