Trevor Twardocleb’s eyes light up when he recounts his own first experience at the Arctic Winter Games.
It was 1980 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Twardeochleb, then a young hockey player from Faro, had managed to crack the lineup for Team Yukon.
“We won the gold medal,” beams Twardochleb. “For a kid from Faro, just going to Fairbanks was a really big deal, let alone winning gold.”
Today Twardochleb remains in the spotlight when it comes to sport in the territory.
After 11 years at Sport Yukon, he recently took over the job of Sport Consultant for the Yukon Government’s Sport and Recreation branch.
One of his responsibilities through that position is to be Team Yukon’s chef de mission for the upcoming Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
“I have the best job in the world,” says Twardochleb. “There are not many days I don’t believe that.”
Twardochleb oversees the contingent of close to 200 Yukoners (coaches, officials and athletes) that will make up Team Yukon.
Any logistics behind the scenes, whether it’s having enough trading pins, being fed on time or getting back and forth from one venue to another, is his responsibility.
And the list goes on.
“As the mission team we want to make sure all the pressures that go on behind the scenes are away from the athletes,” said Twardochleb. “If they don’t see any of that then we have done our job and that is sign of a good Canada Games.”
Twardochleb says the list of memories he has compiled through his involvement with Team Yukon is endless.
His passion for Yukon athletics shines through as he speaks about Canada Games alumnus and Olympian Zach Bell.
“It blows me away when I think about it, because I remember him as this small wrestler from Watson Lake at the Arctic Winter Games,” said Twardochleb. “I mean here’s a kid who was a heck of wrestler, than he gets injured and turns to cycling and now he regularly competes on the world stage.”
Twardochleb’s enthusiasm for the job is evident again when he boasts about former Olympic weightlifter Jeanne Lassen, who built the foundation for her weightlifting career with Team Yukon at the Canada Games.
“She has been an athlete, a coach and she will no doubt have the opportunity to be on the mission team,” explains Twardochleb. “Not every athlete with her accomplishments is like that. She has given so much back to her community.”
When recounting Games highlights, Twardochleb is quick to note the 1991 Canada Winter Games that saw Team Yukon capture a record 16 medals.
But it is the 1999 Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and the 2007 Games in Whitehorse that he rates as his most memorable experiences.
“It wasn’t just the Games, it was the people who made those games so special, the community coming together” said Twardochleb. “Without the volunteers, the coaches and the support, our Games and the Newfoundland Games wouldn’t have been the successes they were.”
“I think of the parking attendant at Takhini Arena, there every day in minus 40 temperatures greeting vehicles with a smile. “People from Ontario still talk about that. They just can’t fathom it.”
Twardochleb says in terms of medal expectations for the upcoming Games, setting realistic goals for Team Yukon is essential.
“It’s not always the end result of a game but the overall experience that is the most important for the territory’s athletes.”
That said, Yukon is certainly no slouch when it comes to competing and reaching the podium and territory’s teams are confident they should win some medals next month.
Today, they are national powerhouses on the cross country ski front and have one of the world’s best young female pistol shooters in Pelly’s Danielle Marcotte.
For Twardochleb and his fellow mission staff, though, the Games aren’t just about the rewards that go around your neck.
“If the athletes tell me they had an awesome time, that’s what we want,” he smiles. “Of course you always want great results but it really comes down to the overall experience. How was the food, how was the entertainment, how did they like Halifax?
“For many of these athletes this is their Olympic Games and they need to soak all of it in.”
The Canada Winters Games are being held February 11–27. For more information, go to www.sportyukon/com and click on the Major Games link.