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AWG 2016: NWT snowshoe athletes endure longest journey

The Northwest Territories’ snowshoe athletes finally get to compete on Tuesday after days of delays and lost luggage.

The team of eight left Yellowknife on the first of Team NWT’s charters last week but was then stranded at Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq Airport – sleeping in a military barracks during almost a day-long weather delay.

“We arrived at 2am and had to sleep in an airplane military base on a cement floor,” said Allie McDonald, a Team NWT member of mission staff who travelled with the team.

“The next day we were optimistic that we would be one of the first groups getting out, but that turned out not to be the case and we ended up being the very last group leaving Kangerlussuaq, at 10 o’clock at night.

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“The snowshoe athletes were still waiting for their luggage on Monday and were still in clothing from Saturday.

“Obviously these kids have gone through a lot but they have been great – they haven’t complained once and I can genuinely say they’re an awesome group of kids. They really deserve some credit.”

The 2.5 km and 5 km snowshoe events are the first to be held, beginning at 4pm local Nuuk time on Tuesday.

That will encourage Kea Furniss, a Yellowknife snowshoe athlete who favours the longer-distance events.

Furniss turned to snowshoeing after missing out in ski biathlon trials. She earned her place at trials in Inuvik before finding an unexpected ally in a former snowshoe coach for Alberta North.

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Lisa Bowe left her post with the Alberta team – and sacrificed her chance to go to Greenland – to move to Yellowknife late last year, where she now works as a dietician at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

Furniss’s family, having heard about Bowe’s snowshoe experience, tracked her down while at work in the hospital to ask if she would coach Kea.

Snowshoe coach Lisa Bowe with Team NWT athlete Kea Furniss
Snowshoe coach Lisa Bowe with Team NWT athlete Kea Furniss.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity, because she is new to the sport, to show her what snowshoeing is and get her more interested,” said Bowe.

“From that first day to now, I’ve seen her really grow and become more excited about snowshoeing.

“I think she’s going to kick some butt on the long-distance because she kicks my butt going up those hills. She’s going to do awesome at the Games.”

Kea told 100.1 the Moose: “I was really disappointed to not be on the biathlon team, so I guess I had a bit of a negative attitude at the start. But I just wanted to go to Greenland because a lot of my friends were going.

“I really like snowshoeing now. I know how to do it now, it’s a lot more fun when you know what you’re doing. It’s cool to be by yourself, running through trails. I like that.

“When I met Lisa and we started training, I realized it was fun and she taught me a lot. I started really enjoying it.”

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