Arctic Winter Games offers a lifetime of experience for Alaskan Athletes

In 1976 I was honored to have participated in the Arctic Winter Games in Shefferville, Quebec, Canada.  I was only 16 years old and traveling to an international table tennis tournament.  With only limited local practice and and play with friends and club members I had only one tournament experience before I competed.   Back then the team was selected by a one time tournament with the top 3 finishers immediately chosen as the AWG representatives.  The Anchorage tournament was my only experience prior to competing against the Canadians in only the 4th AWG.  

Now in 2014 this will be the 23rd AWG and now features 9 continents, 2000 athletes, 2500 volunteers, 3000 friends and family members and 600  VIPs and sponsors.  Venues will be spread out in Fairbanks and surrounding locations. A solid transportation system will deliver athletes and coaches to their venue and allow further shuttles to other sports for some exciting spectator action.  

Athletes will be required to wear their credentials at all times allowing them access to ceremonies and venues during their 8 day experience.  Housing in the athletes village will offer recreation, entertainment and sleeping quarters.  We were housed on the nearby military base in a multi story bunk house.  Other locations for athletes could include schools for housing and competition.  Some venues are within walking distance or right inside their  

The Alaskan juniors and juveniles are in for an exciting experience.  Like the "Winter Olympics of the North" The Actic Winter Games features 20 summer and winter sports.  Conventional sports like alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, basketball, volleyball, figure skating, hockey, short track speed skating, biathlon skiing, curling, snowboarding and table tennis.  But also host some less common sports like dog mushing, gymnastics, biathalon snowshoe, Dene Games, Arctic Sports, indoor soccer, badminton, wrestling and snowshoeing. For some this will be a second or third opportunity but for most this will be a frist time experience.  Meeting athletes from all over exchanging trading pins and taking in the new sensations and color of this great experience. 

The athletes will experience a friendly greeting and credential distribution upon arrival.  A festive and welcoming atmosphere will flood the team members as athletes, officials and coaches arrive like celebrities at a rock concert.  Cheering volunteers and spectators will be everywhere offering support and assistance.  Like the Olympics most athletes are attending for the experience and culture of the AWG and are not contenders for the top Ulu metals. And a select few are competing for the hardware and prestege of becoming a champion. 

Teams are selected from various try-outs or selections by coaches.  Some contingents field teams with the only representatives in there sport and larger contingent require team tryouts with tournaments and camps.  The results help guide the coaches to select the best team to fill all 8 positions.   The largest team is from Alaska and although a stron contender in many sports.  Table Tennis over the past 18 years has not been a strong sport for team Alaska.  Dominate teams have been Greenland and Yamal.  In th early years of AWG Alaska and Yukon would battle it out for Gold and Silver.  With top singles in male and female swapping out top honors from 1970 with the first gold ulu in male singles awarded to Alaskan Table Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, Boyd Bennett. 

Memories from the Arctic Winter Games will come from the competition and emotions at the various events.  From the opening ceremonies, marching of the athletes, intense action of the sport and cultural exchange among the participants.  I remember the sports banquet, walking to other sports venues to watch volleyball and badminton.  I was fortunate to have won metals during each of my attendance at the AWG.  I got several trading pins back in the 70's and 80's that I still have today.  Wish I had more photos as the amount of photography back then was limited.  

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