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NWT wins three hand games titles at Arctic Winter Games

Gabrielle McLeod, Jerrica Sanderson and Desiree Charlo after winning hand games gold at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games. Ollie Williams/Team NT

Three Northwest Territories teams won hand games gold at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray on Wednesday.

The performance is the territory’s most dominant in recent hand games history at the Arctic Winter Games. Overall, Team NT has a total of 25 gold ulus as of Thursday morning, behind only Yukon with 30.

Jerrica Sanderson, Gabrielle McLeod and Desiree Charlo recovered from an opening defeat to win juvenile female hand games gold.

Sanderson, McLeod and Charlo – from Fort Resolution, Aklavik and Dettah respectively – only met for the first time at trials in December. They spent two days together at the games before competing. 



“It’s my first time playing hand games and it’s my first time getting a medal,” said Charlo, 13. 

“The beat of the drums feels like it’s inside you, like there’s nothing else and all you can hear is the drums,” she added, describing her love for the sport. Team NT was defending a juvenile female title the territory won in Fort Smith in 2018.

Bridgette McKay, Monica Arey, Ariana Sundberg-Koyina and Tanesha Norn added junior female gold later on Wednesday. The open male team of Bryan Taneton, Gordie Liske, Robin Catholique and Kennen Andre-Blake won gold in one of the last events to conclude that night.

In Arctic Sports, Veronica McDonald defeated team-mate Danica Taylor for arm pull gold, while Taylor added her own one-foot high kick gold ulu to the tally. Chris Stipdonk won knuckle hop gold in a 188-foot hop that just missed the Arctic Winter Games record.



Storm Cabell-White won an extraordinary third consecutive gold ulu of the week, this time in snowboard’s U15 female banked slalom. She was joined by team-mate Grayson Marchiori, who won the U15 male title in the event.

Peyton Koe won figure skating’s U19 level two free skate, followed by a second gold ulu for Lily Brennan in the level three event.

All three hockey teams have progressed to their semi-finals, which will take place on Thursday afternoon and evening. The male curling team had its progress halted by Yukon in the play-offs, while the female curlers face Alaska on Thursday for a place in the final.

Correction: February 2, 2023 – 10:30 MT. The first version of this report omitted Tanesha Norn from the junior female hand games team that won gold on Wednesday. Tanesha has been added.