Team NWT’s female speed skaters delivered a stunning performance to reach the final of the short track 3,000m relay at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George.
The NWT set a territorial record time of four minutes 55.504 seconds in their semi-final on Monday afternoon, finishing behind New Brunswick but ahead of Saskatchewan and a disqualified Ontario team.
The result advances the NWT to the ‘A’ final alongside New Brunswick, Quebec and Alberta.
While those three teams all produced noticeably faster times in the semi-finals, short track relays are notorious for collisions and disqualifications.
“Anything can happen” is the sport’s unofficial motto and, with just four teams in the final, any slip by an opponent could hand the NWT a medal.
“This is huge,” NWT coach Shane Clark told Moose FM. “They were perfect. Flawless.
“During the race Ontario had a skater fall, and they missed the ‘tag’ needed to complete the relay. Our girls didn’t know during the race – neither did I – that Ontario would be penalized for ‘no touch’. They just kept skating hard and keeping their exchanges clean.
“The skaters left the ice elated, only knowing they had smashed best personal times.
“I got the call from the head official following the race that we had advanced. It’s been a fun night since.”
The previous record was 5:05.12, from the 2004 Arctic Winter Games, two generations of skaters ago.
Team NWT’s five-woman squad features Fort Simpson’s Madison Pilling alongside Yellowknife quartet Lauren Eggenberger, Camille Rourke, Ali Fleming and Kristin Chapman.
The final will take place at 1:45pm MT on Friday, February 20.
Meanwhile, six of seven skaters advanced in the 1,000m preliminaries and four of seven skaters progressed from the first stage of the 500m event.
Six of the territorial skating team will be shown live on TSN2 in the 500m finals on Wednesday afternoon, from 4pm MT.
Also on Monday, the territory’s female air rifle target shooting team – Elizabeth McCullum and Melissa Clark, both from Yellowknife – finished an impressive seventh, ahead of Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario.
The NWT’s male curlers lost 7-5 to Saskatchewan, while the territory’s female hockey team beat the Yukon 7-2.