Last week, Team Nunavut won its first ever figure skating medal at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games (AWG), but they couldn't have done it without a little help from other athletes.
Nunavut's figure skating program is less than 10 years old, according to CBC News, and this year, the team consisted of only three members: Cassidy Devereaux, Penelope Armstrong and Talia Armstrong.
Because the team initially didn't have the required eight members to qualify for the team skating competition, the three girls believed they wouldn't be allowed to compete. However, their luck quickly changed when five skaters from different teams volunteered to skate for Team Nunavut before the official start of the Games on March 18.
"This is a world-class event. Everybody is working very hard to get here and deserves a chance to participate," coach Cheryl Jobson, of Team Alberta North, told Nunavut News about the athletes coming together to help out Team Nunavut. "Truly everyone was on board. It was really nice to see. I think there was even a few tears."
Truly everyone was on board. It was really nice to see.
Considering the Arctic Games are meant to give northern athletes a better chance of succeeding with its smaller competition pool, the athletes' camaraderie was truly remarkable.
Team Nunavut coach Victoria Hann told Nunavut News that the girls were so excited they could compete that "they were jumping and screaming."
Cassidy and Penelope later told CBC they were "thankful" for the other skaters.
Feel good story of the day: Nunavut wins a bronze Ulu in team figure skating, after skaters from Yukon, Alaska, Russia, NWT and Alberta North volunteer to skate for the small 3-person Nunavut team, who originally weren't planning on competing at all today. My heart! #AWG2018 pic.twitter.com/V58uUoksvz— Alexandra Byers (@alexandra_byers) March 22, 2018
So who were these unsung heroes? Team Nunavut's five volunteers were: Hannah Courtoreille from the Northwest Territories, Alissa Russell from Yukon, Sarah Mixsell from Alaska, Sadie Finnebraaten from Alberta North and Valeriia Nesterova from Russia.
With the help of these athletes, the team went on to win the bronze medal in team figure skating.
Coach Hann told CBC that the experience was unforgettable, not just because they won their first medal — which they call a ulu, after the traditional Indigenous knife — but because of what they learned.
They learned that it was totally not about competing individually and winning a medal. It's about coming together as a team.
"They learned that it was totally not about competing individually and winning a medal. It's about coming together as a team, and showing your sportsmanship," Hann told the news outlet. "It's really what the Games are all about."
Team Nunavut is still relatively young, as it only began competing as its own territory in 2002. Prior to that, Nunavut competed as part of the Northwest Territories, the AWG website states.
However, thanks to the figure skating team's success at this year's Games, we have no doubt Team Nunavut will continue to grow and inspire other athletes.
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