Team colours shine bright as Labrador Winter Games kick off

Athletes from all over Labrador packed Happy Valley-Goose Bay's EJ Broomfield arena Sunday night to kick off the Labrador Winter Games.

"This week, more history will be made," Premier Dwight Ball said. "It is my pleasure to officially open the 2019 Labrador Winter Games."

Teams made their entrances through a canvas tent, shining bright with team colours.

The arena, which was filled to capacity, welcomed over 360 athletes from 20 Labrador communities who will be competing in various events during the week-long games.

During the ceremony, the Labrador Winter Games flame was lit atop a giant map of Labrador, by torch bearers Cynthia Hancock, from Forteau, and Jesse Ford, from Makkovik, who is also the youngest competitor.

The ceremony also honoured Boyce Bessey, a dedicated volunteer from the very first games in 1983, who passed away just over three years ago.

"There wasn't anything that he couldn't or wouldn't do," Ball said of Bessey. "He could be counted upon when there was something that was needed to be done, all of which he did without complaint or desire for recognition."

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The games are made up of seven mandatory events, some of which are unique to Labrador, like the Labrathon and the Northern games, along with familiar sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoe races.

There are also five optional events for teams to compete in, including the first-ever road running race.

"We welcome all of the competitors to a week of strong competition, but friendly competition," Ernie McLean, games chairman, said.

Community colours

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Team Cartwright, which won the team trophy at the last Labrador Winter Games, made their bright orange entrance in matching outfits.

"We usually try and get the best team we can get and we practice, and we become a big family, so it means a lot, " Cartwright competitor Andrea Pardy said. 

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"For Labrador, it gets all the communities together and it's like they say, '[It's] a big friendship games,' so it's awesome," she said. 

Team Sheshatshiu entered the arena dressed in traditional Innu uniforms, made by community members.

"It was honestly really nice," Nickolas Gregoire said.

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Gregoire is hoping to unseat the sitting champs.

"Everybody's hoping to win it, I'm just hoping we will come out on top," he said.

Rigolet stood out as they took to the arena floor, wearing locally-crafted Labrador dickies and hats.

"We're really proud to have local dress on at this big event," Kristy Sheppard said.

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The roughly 20 members of Team Rigolet are evenly divided between veteran and rookie competitors. Some made their way from the isolated community by plane, but others travelled the roughly 160 kilometres by snowmobile.

"We really like to compete but we like to have a lot of fun as well, so the team is really excited," Sheppard said.

The Labrador Winter Games will be full days of events and competition, before wrapping up with closing ceremonies on Saturday night.

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