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Nunavut sledders disappointed over Games cancellation

The announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) has left many in Nunavut disappointed and shocked including Nunavut's dog sledding teams.

Citing concerns around COVID-19, the cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games was announced March 7.

photo courtesy of Devon Manik Resolute's Devon Manik with his dog team. Manik was training for several weeks for what would have been his last Arctic Winter Games.

Coaches, athletes and volunteers have all expressed varying levels of disappointment but coach Jovan Simic, who trained Devon Manik and Leetia Eegeesiak for dog sledding, believes the cancellation of AWG affects athletes the hardest.

"They've been dreaming about these games for a year. They've put in a lot of work and were looking forward to the whole experience," he said.

Manik, who spent lots of time training his dogs in Resolute Bay, had also made the effort to fly into Iqaluit for training.

"For Devon this was his last year of eligibility too, which makes it extra hard ... especially considering the effort he put in to raise and train his own team as a teenager," said the coach.

Despite it being an unfortunate situation, Simic said he fully supports the decision of cancelling the games.

Coach Simic's other athlete, Eegeesiak, felt disappointed and shocked about the cancellation."The day before the sad news we built our racing sled, I was so proud and super excited and the sled was so amazing," she said.

"I was disappointed because I was just so excited and that news just plummeted my excitement," Eegeesiak explained.

She was looking forward to attending her very first AWG and meeting other dog mushers.
"I was also excited to see how my dogs react to all the trees they have in Whitehorse, seeing that we don't have any trees here (Iqaluit)," Eegeesiak said.

She too, however, understands why the games were cancelled. Eegeesiak remains hopeful for the next AWG.

Similarly, Mariele Depeuter, the chef de mission of Team Nunavut, is looking toward the future with a positive attitude.

"We're very much looking forward to seeing our AWG run in 2022 now," said Depeuter.