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‘We are warriors’ – NWT gymnasts fight through team final

Team NT's gymnasts in action at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer
Team NT's gymnasts in action at the 2019 Canada Games in Red Deer.

Team NT’s gymnasts overcame a series of injuries and setbacks to complete a punishing team final at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

The team lost one of its five members to injury before even completing its first warm-up, and had a second athlete sit out three of the final’s four events.

“We’ve gone through so much already. I just think we’re a bunch of warriors,” said gymnast Natalie Shafer, who was carried from the field of play with a leg injury after falling during her warm-up for the first event.

Shafer landed awkwardly at the end of her warm-up on the uneven bars, hyperextending her knees, twisting an ankle, and requiring attention from the venue’s medical staff.



“I went way higher than I was expecting, then I landed and my knees were completely straight,” Shafer recalled.

“I thought I would be able to keep going but I started trying to get up and was like, ‘No… I don’t think I can do this.’”

Team NT flag-bearer Maggie Carson, already nursing a foot injury, began the team final bleeding from her leg after opening an old wound during the warm-up.

Lindsey Woodford then hobbled away from a painful landing following a misjudged dismount from beam, while Jade Ko shook off a succession of falls from the same apparatus to finally complete her routine.



“When I was walking back [after the routine], I knew I had to finish the competition and be proud,” said Woodford. “I’m here at the Canada Games and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“We all have pain when we do gymnastics. We all pull through in the end,” said Emma Leathem, the fifth member of the team.

Leathem said she had been “overwhelmed” by the size of the Red Deer crowd, with hosts Alberta’s gymnasts taking part at the same time.

“It was really scary at first, I was really nervous,” admitted Ko.

Injury to Shafer and Carson’s nagging foot injury meant the territory was unable to field a full four athletes in each of the final’s four events – the bars, beam, floor, and vault – leaving Team NT to finish in 11th place.

Quebec took gold ahead of Ontario in second and Alberta in third.

Day two recap

Elsewhere on Sunday, the NWT’s male hockey team lost 3-2 to Prince Edward Island in the morning before recovering to beat Yukon 4-2 in the evening.

In table tennis, ties against Nunavut were won by forfeit as Team NT’s opponents did not show, while there were victories over Yukon in doubles among other results on a packed day of action.

Speed skater Wren Acorn reached the semi-finals of the women’s 1,500m event, which will be held on Monday afternoon at 2pm MT.

And in biathlon, an extremely cold first race saw Team NT’s Spencer Littlefair finish 30th in the men’s sprint, with sisters Calista and Danika Burke 19th and 25th respectively in the women’s event.