A week before the 2020 Arctic Winter Games, Team NT athletes say their opening ceremony uniforms are in some cases two or three sizes larger than requested.
A group of basketball players collecting uniforms on Thursday described discovering what should have been a box of small and extra-small uniforms was, in fact, a box of large sizes only. The clothes were the only options remaining.
“These girls have worked so hard to participate in the Arctic Winter Games. They shouldn’t be forced to wear men’s large clothes that literally fall off them as they walk out to represent the NWT,” one parent involved, Caroline Hogan-Newberry, told Cabin Radio.
“It’s embarrassing to them and the NWT,” she added.
“Asking extra-small girls to take larges is ridiculous,” said a second parent who, like a number of athletes, spoke to Cabin Radio on condition of anonymity, not wishing to be identified publicly complaining a week before flying with the team to the Games in Whitehorse.
Some athletes were considering abandoning the opening ceremony rather than walk out in clothing several sizes too large.
Sport North, which organizes Team NT for major events like the Arctic Winter Games, is telling affected families to take garments to a local tailor for adjustment.
Doug Rentmeister, the executive director of Sport North, said he expected around 30 percent of athletes would be issued uniforms in the wrong size. Many athletes have still to collect their apparel.
Rentmeister attributed the problem to two causes: manufacturer Karbon changing its sizing and unexpectedly small athletes.
In an email to coaches this week, Rentmeister said Sport North was obliged to inform Karbon of its order a year in advance – and ordinarily did so by estimating sizing based on the previous Games.
Speaking to Cabin Radio on Friday, Rentmeister said: “We’re dependent on the manufacturer coming out with sizes that are similar, if not the same to previous Arctic Winter Games campaigns. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case at this juncture.
“This Arctic Winter Games, we have a lot of smaller athletes – many more so than in previous campaigns.
“There are certain teams that are going to have to take sizes that normally wouldn’t fit these folks.”
Reached by phone, Peter Schure – of Toronto-based Schure Sports, which designs and manufactures Karbon clothing – would not confirm or deny any change in the company’s sizes.
“The garments were ordered one year in advance of the Games,” Schure later confirmed in a short emailed statement. “As for any other matters, please address these issues with your contact at Sport North.”
‘We’re going to have to follow up’
Each NWT athlete pays $350 to register for the Games. Sport North has stressed this fee is “not a clothing subsidy” and unaffected by the shortage of appropriate sizes.
Sport North’s Bill Othmer, assistant chef de mission for Team NT in Whitehorse, referred athletes with the wrong sizes to Sunlines, a Yellowknife convenience store and clothing alteration firm.
“We’ve called Sunlines, they’re going to give us a deal. We’re really trying, here,” said Othmer.
Hogan-Newberry expressed doubt that any tailor would be able to help the basketball team’s athletes.
“That’s unacceptable,” she said. “There’s no time and no way these girls can get men’s large clothing altered to women’s extra-small or small. It’s ridiculous.”
Rentmeister, however, said coaches had been “very accommodating” to date. Othmer expressed hope that coaches in smaller communities would do their best to reallocate clothing so athletes had garments only a size or two larger than requested.
“I hope they say, ‘Jimmy, I know you had a medium, but look at little Jill over there. She’s swimming,'” said Othmer.
“We’re hoping that once the communities receive their stuff, if it’s still outrageous, we can work with the teams and try to accommodate them by one or two sizes.”
Rentmeister said Sport North would now contact Karbon regarding the issue. (Karbon, when first contacted by Cabin Radio, said it had no knowledge of Team NT’s sizing concerns.)
“We’re going to have to follow up with them,” Rentmeister said. “This really didn’t follow the sizing that we received. It’s not the quality of the garment, it’s just that the sizing is a little bit out of whack.”
Bail on the ceremony?
One parent questioned how the problem had not been identified and communicated earlier. Though uniforms are ordered a year in advance, athletes have attended sizing sessions in the past two months.
Rentmeister acknowledged the issue had begun to appear at those sessions.
“We had what we presumed to be the larger athletes coming in and saying, ‘We want the smaller sizes.’ That’s when we realized something had happened that was an anomaly,” he said.
The uniforms are mandatory for athletes at the opening ceremony, scheduled for March 15 in Whitehorse.
Two athletes told Cabin Radio they would rather skip the opening ceremony than be seen wearing clothing far too large for their frames.
Asked if Sport North would understand that course of action, Rentmeister said no.
“They signed up and said they would agree to go to both ceremonies,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do to accommodate the sizes.
“I understand the frustration. Kids want their sizes because they’re proud of their garment. We feel unfortunate that we’re not able to supply the sizes they requested.”