• John Jantak

Northern swim team Nanuit has first ever competition against Pincourt Aquatic Club


Members of the Nanuit swim team from the northern Quebec community of Kangiqsualujjuaq pose for a group shot right before the start of their competition with members of the Pincourt Aquatic Club at Olympic Park August 14.

The excitement was palpable as young members of Nanuit, the first ever Arctic swim team in Quebec, competed against the Pincourt Aquatic Club at the swimming pool in Olympic Park last Wednesday evening, August 14.

Nanuit, which translates into polar bears, is located in Kangiqsualujjuaq which is also known as George River in English. It is located about 1,700 kilometers northeast of Montreal. The Inuit team has 15 members, two of whom were unable to attend the competition.

Inspiring youth through swimming

“We started as a church team,” swim team coach Raquel Mack told The Journal. “I’m a priest at George River. We wanted a new way to reach kids and get them inspired to do stuff. Our group started having swim events and it got to the point where we got an invite to go down south but it fell through.

“We thought this is inspiring for the kids. They were excited. So we found a team that was willing to host us and we came down with the kids,” said Mack.

First real competition

The competition against the Pincourt Aquatic Club marks the first time the northern team has competed against anyone else.

“All we’ve done before is compete against ourselves. We’ve done our own mini events because there are no roads in or out. We have to fly in and out. We’re way up north,” said Mack.

The members of Nanuit range in age from nine to 15 and is comprised of both boys and girls. They only have a narrow six-week period where they can actually hone their swimming skills in their community. From July 1, they practice in a small 10-metre pool that is housed in a greenhouse-like structure.

The rest of the year, the members of Nanuit run, even when it’s minus 50° outdoors. Despite these challenges, the members just want to swim, showing that even with the obstacles they face, they can be anything they want. This is the spirit of the Nanuit swim team.


Nanuit swim team member Willie Morgan participates in a competition during a swim meet with the Pincourt Aquatic Club.

Competitive spirit

Regardless of their initial apprehension competing against the Pincourt Aquatic Club, the Nanuit team showed their competitive spirit throughout the event. “They’re very excited. Right now they’re very, very nervous because they’ve never ever done anything like this. Swimming is new,” said Mack before the start of the competition.

“Our town has had our pool for maybe eight to 10 years now. We’re only a second-year swim team and our pool is only 40 feet in length and not very wide. We can’t even do shallow dives. This is the first time the kids are diving in the shallow end. It’s huge. Their mouths are open the whole time. It’s so exciting. We’re very thrilled to be here,” added Mack.

Exercising mind and muscle

In addition to the competition, the members of the Nanuit team were treated other outings during their one-week stay.

“We’re going to take them to the zoo, the science centre and the planetarium. They’re going to exercise their muscles during the swim meet and their minds the other times,” said Mack.

“I’m so proud of them. I could cry. When we started this it was just for fun and to get them exercising. To see them come so far, some couldn’t even swim and now they’re swimming. I’m so excited for them,” said Mack.

Medals and ribbons

The first place swimmer from each club received a medal for each event and every swimmer received a place ribbon from the Town of Pincourt. The medals were provided by Nanuit which also awarded each swimmer participation ribbons, said Kent Chown, Secretary for the Pincourt Aquatic Club.

“The kids were happy. One youth came up to me at the end talking about how significant an event it was for the Pincourt swimmers to have had the opportunity to host the Nanuit team. At least one young swimmer made sure the Nanuit swimmers had their mailing address to keep contact in the future. It was literally a bridge-building event,” said Chown.

Pincourt Mayor Yvan Cardinal said it was wonderful for the Pincourt Aquatic Club to have hosted the meet. “It was a beautiful evening. Everyone had a big smile when it was over. I think the Nanuit team really enjoyed swimming in a big pool. It was a great exchange between the kids from Pincourt and I hope we’re able to do it again next year.”

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