If you have some time on Thursday, and you’d like to be a part of a potential history-making event in Nunavut sport, make sure you get your popcorn ready, put your feet up and prepare to be amazed.
Cambridge Bay’s Eekeeluak Avalak will have a chance to become the first Nunavummiut to hit the podium at the Canada Summer Games. The 18-year-old wrestler will be in the semifinals of the men’s 52-kg weight class and, with a win, will advance to the gold medal match versus the winner of the other semifinal. A medal result for Avalak would make him the second athlete from the territory to hit the podium; Eugene Dederick of Iqaluit was the first overall when he won bronze in judo at the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse.
The semifinal will be on a livestream and is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
Avalak said he knows how important this is not only for himself, but his team and the territory.
“Just being in the top-four is amazing and I’m so proud of what I’ve done, but winning a medal for Nunavut would be so huge,” he said. “I’m excited to get the chance.”
Avalak advanced to the semifinal based on his results from the team duels portion of the wrestling event. That happened on Tuesday and Wednesday as the entire team hit the mats looking to score as many points per match as possible toward a total team score. Nunavut was placed in pool b and took on B.C., Quebec, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. They weren’t able to win any of their duels, but did come close versus P.E.I., dropping a tight 16-13 decision.
But the duels were used as a way to determine which wrestlers would do battle for what place. Avalak won all five of his matches — three by technical superiority (mercy rule, 10-point spread or more) and two by forfeit as not every team had a wrestler at every weight class.
His quintet of victories means he finished atop his weight class in his pool and put him in line for a medal.
Not like he wasn’t expected to be at or near the top to begin with. Avalak went into the Games as the absolute best hope for a medal for Nunavut and, to date, he hasn’t disappointed.
He knew going in that there would be no more surprises about what he’s capable of — the rest of the country has found out just how good he’s become.
“I’m more ready than ever,” said Avalak. “I know my name is out there, it’s been out there for the past couple of years now. Everyone’s taking me more seriously and I’ve just gone match by match.”
Head coach Chris Crooks said as a team, his troops have accorded themselves more than admirably.
“We’ve won some, lost some,” he said. “We knew it would be tough going in, but they’ve all been competitive and looked like wrestlers (laughs). A lot of our matches went into the second round and that’s a big positive. We weren’t getting beat in the first round. That’s always a big plus.”
One of the big highlights, according to Crooks, was Cambridge Bay’s Jusipie Dimitruk getting his first win at the Canada Summer Games. He’s the youngest member of the team at 14 and provided one of the nicer points.
“We don’t usually win a lot of matches and seeing him win was really cool,” said Crooks.
As for Avalak, you can tune in on Thursday by clicking on this link. The streams are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. EDT.