If you thought you’d miss out on the 2023 Arctic Winter Games because you’d be too old, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The Games’ International Committee announced on Aug. 31 that it has approved a motion keeping the age categories where they would have been for the original 2022 edition in Fort McMurray, Alta. That means youth athletes who would have aged out when the Games happen in January 2023 will still be able to play.

In a statement announcing the decision, John Flynn, the committee’s president, stated that the move was made after talking with the chefs de mission from all nine participating jurisdictions.

“We considered both the chefs and their sport organizations’ critical feedback and we analysed the potential effects that changing the sport age categories could have,” he said. “We came to the conclusion to maintain the draft 2022 technical packages’ years of birth was the fairest situation for the youth participants.”

The 2022 Games were originally supposed to happen this coming March but were pushed back due to concerns over where the pandemic would be at that point.

Mariele Depeuter, Team Nunavut’s chef de mission for 2023, was in on the discussions and said it was important for the Canadian jurisdictions to get the guarantee of age categories staying put.

“The (non-Canadian) jurisdictions have different criteria and selection processes than we do here,” she said.

Even with the age categories remaining as they are, almost every single sport will be starting off on a clean slate, irregardless of the 2020 Games in Whitehorse being cancelled at the start of the pandemic.

Depeuter said some sports will already have a pool of athletes to choose from that have been on the radar for the past 18 months but there will most likely be some changes.

“I’m sure a lot will be starting new with new sets of trials and they will also be re-engaging with those who may be eligible,” she said.

Something else the sports groups need to keep in mind is the timing of the 2023 Games as the Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown are scheduled to start just two weeks following the completion of the AWG.

Depeuter said some sports may keep the same group together for both sets of games, though that may not happen.

“We’ll meet with each group and go over the pros and cons with keeping the same group,” she said. “The athletes will get some extra training out of it but burnout will be a concern that they’ll have to keep in mind. It’s all about trying to find a balance.”

Add to that the issue of younger athletes missing blocks of classroom time, she added.

“The issue of school is on the radar and we’ll be looking to try and support the schools and school boards,” she said. “It will affect classroom management so we’ll help the best way we can.”

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