Inuvik duo Braeden Picek and Dalton McLeod celebrated a one-two finish as the NWT’s speed skaters put six ulus on the board in the sport’s first finals at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games.
Picek beat McLeod to gold in the junior male 1,000m final, while Grace Clark and Daphne Cloutier collected silver and bronze for the territory in the women’s equivalent.
Seigna Hult-Griffin and Luke Dizon were both bronze medallists in the juvenile 1,000m races.
Picek’s victory in Fort Smith made him the first gold medallist in the territory’s home Arctic Winter Games, though Jed Mitchell took silver in snowshoeing earlier in the morning for the NWT’s opening ulu.
“I got off to a really bad start. I was last at one point,” Mitchell told Cabin Radio. “At first I was a bit over-confident in myself but I’m very happy with silver.”
Mitchell is now contemplating a switch to futsal for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. He has two snowshoe races remaining in Hay River.
“It feels super good but I don’t want to take too much credit being the first,” speed skating champion Picek told Cabin Radio. “I got to compete really soon. It’s just the first of many. There will be more – a lot more, actually.
“I love the crowd. It’s the first time I’ve got a big crowd cheering me on. I already want to win, but it just makes me want to win even more.”
McLeod said, “This is kind-of what I was hoping to happen. I’m super glad I got silver.”
Clark and Cloutier finished milliseconds apart in the fight for silver and bronze.
“We definitely didn’t want to take each other out but at the end, we both shot the line and it was very close,” said Clark.
“It’s kind-of crazy for me to be here,” said Hult-Griffin. “It’s my first year. I wanted to win but it’s hard because everyone is faster than me, so I’m just glad I made it.”
Speed skating is a traditional medal factory for the Northwest Territories at the Arctic Winter Games – in 2014, the last time the sport was included at the Games, the territory’s speed skaters came home with 31 medals.
However, Team NT’s coaches say it’s unlikely that kind of dominance will be repeated this year.