The Arctic Winter Games (AWG) were in town this week. A mix of cultural events, modern competitions and traditional sports, the Games bring athletes from nine circumpolar regions (Alaska, Yukon, NWT, Northern Alberta, Nunavut, Nunavik [Northern Quebec], Greenland, Sami [Northern Scandinavia] and Yamal [Northern Russia]) together for a week every two years. I was stoked that the games were here this winter.
I saw more cultural events than I did athletic, but there were great in and of themselves:
A fiddler and jigger from the NWT (they love their jiggin' up here):
A dancer and drummers from Northern Russia:
Vegetarian though I am, I kind of wanted to go out and hunt after watching these guys do their thing.
The one sporting event that I did get to see is perhaps the flagship event of the Games. The knuckle hop is to the AWG what the men's marathon is to the Summer Olympics: it is the last athletic event of the week, and happens just before the closing ceremonies. What is the knuckle hop, you ask? Simply put: it's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Competitors get themselves into a push-up position, but with weight on their knuckles as opposed to their palms. Remaining in that position (with elbows tucked in and back straight) they have to hop along the hardwood (yes, hardwood) gym floor on their toes and knuckles. No, you're not mistaken: it is exactly what you're picturing right now, and appears to be every bit as grueling as one would assume.
The winner "hopped" around ninety painful feet. I'm curious to hear who among you injures yourself trying to break that record after reading this post (Micah Carmody and AJ Biswas, I'm looking in your general directions).
Competitors must report to the nurses' table immediately upon finishing, and some say that the rendering of the knuckles useless is why this event is the last of the Games. The picture below is of the hand of the first competitor pictured above. The sight under the bandages is nasty, I assure you.
I think that the next time I'm foolish enough to think myself tough for the way I can ride a bicycle up hills, I'll recall the knuckle hop and gently weep to myself.
Sunday afternoon I took a run along my favourite local route: the ice road out on Great Slave Lake. The picture below doesn't do justice to the colours I can see underfoot, but I think you get the idea.
Fifteen below and sunny is what I call a near-perfect day.
And at the end of a long week, who doesn't want to put their feet up on the lake with a good friend?
Happy St. Patrick's Day, folks. See you next week.
Peace, love and knuckle hops,