At 13 years old, Cullen Sias is the youngest person set to compete in Arctic sports at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games (AWG).
Sias typically plays soccer but decided to switch it up late last year and try out for Arctic sports where he was selected to play for Team Yukon.
With the games now just a week away, the Kluane First Nation citizen said he’s looking forward to playing in one of the north’s most prestigious sporting events.
“It makes me feel like good because that means that I’m the youngest,” he told APTN News. “Competing against older people is kind of scary but this is just going to be fun.”
The AWG are a high-profile circumpolar sport competition for northern and Arctic athletes from across Canada and other circumpolar countries.
Held every two years, it includes alpine skiing, curling and hockey and promotes cultural exchanges with events like Inuit throat singing and Dene drumming.
This year’s games will be the first since 2018 after they were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s event will be the first major sporting event for Sias, along with his older brother, 16-year-old Hudson.
Hudson said he’s nervous but excited to compete with other northern athletes from across the circumpolar region.
“It’s just crazy to think people from Europe are going to be competing, just kind of mind-blowing,” he said.
Both boys will compete in Arctic sports, traditional games originally played by the Inuit.
The games consist of several disciplines, including the one-foot and two-foot high kick, which entails athletes to use explosive force while keeping their balance in order to kick a sealskin ball several feet off the ground.
Coach Eric Porter, who is also competing, said he’s looking forward to watching the division compete with friendly competition.
“Being able to balance the coaching role and be there for the kids, as well as my own competition stuff is nice. That’s the beauty of Arctic sports, it’s the whole group camaraderie thing so there’s a lot less pressure in that sense,” he said.
The 2023 AWG is set to take place from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 in Wood Buffalo, Alta.
Sias said he can’t wait to compete with other northern athletes.
“I think just that there are so many different sports happening in one specific place that it’s, it’s just such a good vibe