Athletes from the three territories who competed in the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games have earned their rest this week, after bringing home significantly more medals from the national competition than they have in the past.
Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut athletes are taking home a total of 17 medals this year, compared to just two in 2015. The 2019 games were held in Swift Current, Sask., from Friday, Aug. 8 to this past Sunday, Aug. 18.
In 2015, Yukon took home the only two medals won by territorial athletes. This year, all three territories earned medals.
'There's nothing to lose'
The N.W.T.'s Leo Konge took home the only gold medal of any athlete from the three territories, and earned three of the six medals won by N.W.T. competitors. The N.W.T. swimmer took gold in the 50-metre butterfly all male competition, and bronze in both the 100-metre and 200-metre butterfly.
Konge told CBC he initially had no idea he had won gold at the end of the 50-metre race, partly because his unusual technique involved racing with his eyes closed to focus on his movements. He said when he touched the wall and opened his eyes to see his teammates jumping up and down in celebration, he assumed it was because he had posted a personal best time.
"I had absolutely no clue," he said. "And then I got out of the water and my swim coach, she runs over and gives me a massive hug and she's jumping like a foot in the air … and she's telling me, 'You just won gold.' And I was just like, 'What? What do I do?'"
Yukoner Jaymi Hinchey took home a silver medal for female wrestling in the 38-40 kg weight class. This achievement becomes even more impressive when considering she made the switch from judo to wrestling recently just to be able to compete in the games.
Hinchey says she trained with the two other wrestlers from the Yukon for two hours, twice per week for the last two months to get ready for the competition. She says she enjoys being a northern athlete at a large competition in the south.
"It's really good because there's nothing to lose," she said. "It's a bit nerve racking but it was so much fun, I really enjoyed it."