For some, arctic winter sports are a matter of family pride IG News

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Krista Kitekudlak, who is competing in the Arctic Winter Games, said she has already achieved her goal.

“My goal to be here is to make my family proud,” said the 15-year-old from Ulukhkatok, NWT

Her family includes her mother, aunts, grandparents and people from all over Ulukhkatok who organized the fundraiser so she could attend.

Kitekudlak said she was speaking to CBC News on Monday “so that my family can see me and how I am. I’m really happy that I made it.”

He’s one of hundreds of athletes who descended on Wood’s Buffalo, Alta., this weekend to participate in the week-long event for the first time in five years.

Monday events include Arctic Sports and Dene Games.

Kadin Hare, 21, of Whitehorse, was competing in stick pull as a member of Team Yukon.

“It’s a little greasy stick you have and you have to pull it like a tug of war,” he said.

This is the third time he is competing in the Games as an athlete.

“Looking forward to meeting friends and old friends from previous Games,” he said. “It’s not about competition, it’s about meeting people.”

A young man jumps trying to kick an object.
Chase Nogasaka traveled from Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, to watch his two sisters compete. He is volunteering at the Games for the first time. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

Chase Nogasak, 16, of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, traveled to the Arctic Winter Games to volunteer.

This allowed her to achieve her main objective: cheering on her two sisters, Bailey Nogasak and Kaydra Nogasak, who are also competing in the Arctic Games.

“Proud of them,” is how he feels. “I want them to do very well.”

Chase is the only member of the family who can make it in person. The rest will follow Bailey and Kaydra’s performance from Tuktoyktuk.

He said the trip was long and included some noisy babies on the plane ride from the Beaufort Delta to Yellowknife, but overall he’s happy to see the pair compete.

Rex Wiley, a three-time Arctic Winter Games competitor from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, is not competing this year.

A man in a white and yellow sweater is sitting among a crow.
Rex Wiley, a father from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, is at the Games to watch both his son and daughter compete in the Dene Games. He himself is a former competitor of the Games. (Natalie Pressman/CBC)

“I come here to watch my kids compete in the Dene Games,” he said.

“I am so proud of them.”

Willie said his kids are big fans of hand games and stick pull.

Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Yukon First Nations Council was another proud dad in attendance. He traveled to Wood Buffalo to watch his 13-year-old daughter, Ella Johnson, compete with the Yukon hockey team.

“She puts a lot of time and effort into training and practicing, playing the game,” he said.

Johnson said her dedication to the sport makes it a whole family affair, and they all have to chip in to make sure she has the best chance to succeed. Whether it’s carrying his hockey bag when he’s tired, or making sure his skates are sharpened regularly.

Johnson said the effort pays off for the whole family because she believes the sport helps her daughter and everyone who competes develop life skills.

“I believe not only in leadership and camaraderie, but also in the positive goodness that sports can bring,” he said.

“My wife and everyone in our family are committed to making sure my daughter has every opportunity to be here.”

Johnson said he wanted to do more in his role as premier to promote investment in sport and healthy living in the North.