August 6-21, 2022
Meridian Credit Union fr

8/7/22

by: Carol Phillips

Nunavut’s Avalak & other flag bearers from across Canada gear up for the 2022 Canada Games

Eekeeluak Avalak could make Canada Summer Games history this week.

The 18-year-old wrestler from Cambridge Bay is the Canadian U19 freestyle bronze medallist in the 55-kg weight class and Nunavut’s best shot at a medal. 

That would give the territory its first-ever medal at the Summer Games.

While he welcomes the pressure because he believes it makes you stronger, Avalak says he’s not dwelling on it.

“Honestly, there is a bit of pressure, but I’m more so just thinking of going in and competing,” said Avalak, who will compete in the 52-kg weight class. “I’m thinking of just scoring my points. I’m not trying to think ahead of time. I just want to focus on the main goal which is being competitive and representing my territory and not just my territory but my family name.”

Nunavut first sent a team to the 2001 Canada Summer Games in London, Ont., and its only medal, to date, is a bronze in judo at the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse.

Avalak carried the Nunavut flag at Saturday night’s opening ceremonies, held at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

“It’s a big thing for me,” he said about the honour. “Growing up, I was a follower and just being at the biggest event for youth sport in Canada, it’s an honour to lead Team Nunavut in the opening ceremonies.”

All 16 flagbearers, representing the provinces and territories across Canada (PEI, New Brunswick, and Quebec each have two athletes sharing flag-bearing duties), were introduced earlier in the day at a press conference at Marriott Fallsview in Niagara Falls.

Nunavut is sending its largest contingent ever this year – 58 representatives from 15 communities including athletes, coaches, support staff, and 10 youth ambassadors volunteering for the host society. While it usually only sends a wrestling team, this year it is also sending teams in beach volleyball and indoor volleyball.

Here are the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games flagbearers at Saturday night’s opening ceremonies:

ALBERTA

Name: Delaney Gibb

Age: 16

Hometown: Raymond, Alberta

Sport: Basketball

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I’m super proud to be able to represent my province. I’ve been able to go to many other provinces and countries with Canada Basketball where I am the only athlete representing Alberta for my age group. In the Biosteel All-Canadian Game/ I was the only female athlete from Alberta, and I was awarded Co-MVP. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is being able to show the other provinces what Alberta has to offer and be able to compete against the best in our country.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Name: Rupinder Johal

Age: 17

Hometown: Abbotsford, British Columbia

Sport: Wrestling

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I’m most looking forward to representing my province and to be at a level with so many athletes that are so good at their sports and being part of a team and hopefully winning a gold medal for my province.

MANITOBA

Name: Erika Vermette

Age: 21

Hometown: Morris, Manitoba

Sport: Volleyball

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I am really excited to experience a professionally organized, multi-sport, Canadian event and all it has to offer, on and off the court. Especially getting to know the athletes from Team Manitoba, bridging connections with athletes from different provinces and territories, supporting other Manitoba teams, and competing at a high-level competition. I’m looking forward to bringing the friendly Manitoba spirit to the Games and holding the flag with pride alongside all the amazing, hardworking Manitoban athletes.

NEW BRUNSWICK

Name: Jesse Canney

Age: 26

Hometown: Durham Bridge, New Brunswick

Sport: Para Swimming

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? The plane was the most fun I’ve had so far because I was with the whole team. I want to win three medals.

Name: Vivian Kutnowski

Age: 19

Hometown: Fredericton, New Brunswick

Sport: Wrestling

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I’m really thankful for this experience. Looking back three years ago I never would have thought I would have been here so I’m really happy just to be here meeting everyone and it doesn’t really matter the results. I’m just really happy to be here.

NEWFOUNDLAND

Name: Jaida Lee

Age: 16

Hometown: St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

Sport: Baseball

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? To compete against the top players in Canada.

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

Name: Mali Straker

Age: 19

Hometown: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Sport: Basketball

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I’m looking forward to just competing. It’s really exciting to be able to have the opportunity to be at these Games with the best athletes in all of Canada and I think I’m just looking forward to playing and meeting a lot of cool people.

NOVA SCOTIA

Name: Mychael Paris

Age: 18

Hometown: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Sport: Rugby 7’s

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? What I’m most excited for is be able to meet athletes from across all the provinces who compete in different sports besides my own.

NUNAVUT

Name: Eekeeluak Avalak

Age: 18

Hometown: Cambridge Bay

Sport: Wrestling, 52 kg

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I'm looking forward to competing at the biggest event for youth sports in Canada and to represent Nunavut. I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. It is an honour to be the flag bearer for Team Nunavut in the opening ceremonies. I'm also excited to compete alongside my teammates in the dual meets after training with them over the last three weeks.

ONTARIO

Name: Taija Sta. Maria

Age: 17

Hometown: Vaughan, Ontario

Sport: Basketball

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I’m looking forward to competing. The last time I played for Team Ontario was 2019, so I’m looking forward to just getting back out there, playing some games representing Ontario, and hopefully winning a gold medal next week.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Name: Vanessa Keefe

Age: 18

Hometown: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Sport: Wrestling

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? What I am most looking forward to at the Games is the energy. Having all of the athletes from all kinds of different sports representing PEI and getting ready to bring medals home to PEI.\

Name: RJ Hetherington

Age: 18

Hometown: Stratford, Prince Edward Island

Sport: Wrestling

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? What I'm most looking forward to are the results of our province and the friendships that we create along the way of our competition. The past few years have been very different for sport, so I’m looking forward to meeting and competing against new athletes and making new friends.

QUEBEC

Name: Catherine-Ann Maui Blenkhorn

Age: 19

Hometown: Ste-Anne-des-Lacs

Sport: Rugby Sevens

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I'm really looking forward to seeing my team compete against the other provinces as it will be the first time many of us play together. Also, for some girls, it will be the first time that they will play at such a high level.

Name: Mathis Beaulieu

Age: 18

Hometown: Quebec City

Sport: Triathlon

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I'm really excited to represent Quebec in such a big event. I'm really looking forward to seeing other athletes in other sports and cheering them on.

SASKATCHEWAN

Name: Angel Besskkaystare

Age: 18

Hometown: Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan

Sport: Wrestling

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? I will give it all my best on the mats, cheer on for Team Sask, experience new things in Niagara Falls, hopefully see my family when I am wrestling and hopefully my community (Wollaston Lake) watches me compete on TV.

YUKON

Name: Mara Roldan

Age: 18

Hometown: Whitehorse, Yukon

Sport: Cycling – Mountain Biking

What are you most looking forward to at these Games? Just being here for both mountain biking and road biking is pretty huge. But I think what I’m most looking forward to is just being able to compete. At these Games, we’re racing people who have gone to many international competitions so to be on the same start line as them, hopefully try to keep up and have that experience of just learning from people who are faster than me and see what I can do.

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