Shawne Kokelj, from Yellowknife, was this month given national governing body Nordiq Canada’s Firth Award. The award, named for NWT skiing legends Sharon Firth and Shirley Firth Larsson, recognizes women who have “made an outstanding contribution to cross- country skiing in Canada.”
Shawne’s nominators wrote: “As president of Cross Country NWT and previously as what amounted to a volunteer staff member, Shawne has poured energy and vision into our sport. Her efforts have helped to inspire a huge increase in membership for a sport that has immense history in the territory.
“This nomination carries even more significance given the power the name Firth has in Northwest Territories and Canadian skiing, and the fact that Shawne has so emphatically preserved and empowered the legacy of Sharon Firth and Shirley Firth Larsson in her efforts for Cross Country NWT.”
Membership of Cross Country NWT has increased by 40 per cent in the past six years.
Shawne served as CCNWT’s president from 2019 to 2022, having spent more than a decade volunteering in a variety of roles across the sport. A national-level ultimate player before taking up cross-country skiing after the birth of her children, Shawne’s ski career includes multiple appearances as the top female competitor in Yellowknife’s Rock and Ice Ultra, an endurance ski event spanning either 300 km over six days or 160 km over three days.
CCNWT’s new president, acclaimed last month, is David Mahon. Shawne remains on the board as treasurer. The organization is now working toward a new strategic plan, financial support for the flood-affected Hay River club, and athlete and coach selection for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games and Canada Winter Games.