Since moving to Labrador we’ve been so lucky to have many unique, local experiences– visiting Battle Harbour, dogsledding, trying local cuisine, watching seals and whales, standing at the base of fjords– but among the best of these experiences has been the Labrador Winter Games.
Nicknamed the “Olympics of the North”, the games began in 1983 and take place every 3 years. Communities from all across the Big Land assemble teams of up to 17 athletes to compete in a variety of modern and traditional events to celebrate friendship, community, and culture.
There are so many moments from the Games that stick out in my mind, from displays of incredible sportsmanship to seeing firsthand the cultural elements of the Games that make this event so unique. But without a doubt, the part of the Games that really struck a chord with me was the Northern Games. This event is made up of 4 competitions that are unique to the north, spread over 2 nights. The evening began with a collaborative music performance featuring traditional drum dancers, which was so powerful to hear and see. The nights’ competition began with the Labrador Hurdles, and let me tell you, it’s easier than it sounds! A row of hurdles are lined up, and competitors must keep their ankles together, kicking to one side, with only one hop between each. Stop, or knock over a hurdle, and you’re out! Just watching the athletes made my legs hurt! After the hurdle competition was over there was a brief intermission while the hurdles were removed, and the equipment was set up for the Over the Rope event. The concept is simple– athletes must get over the rope as many times as possible, with a full arm extension between each attempt. The fan favourite during this event was without a doubt the female competitor from Charlottetown who showed incredible perseverance, made even more incredible by the fact that she’d undergone heart surgery only 6 months before competing. Amazing!