The last time Chevak senior Chandler Ulroan was able to attend and compete in the Indigenous Youth Olympics was his first year in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the annual sports competition, where young athletes from all over Alaska come to test their power and determination, stand virtually.
“It was awesome,” Ulroan said. “I’ve been coming here since seventh grade.”
Although he didn’t produce a wrist finish to earn him a podium spot, the 18-year-old was by far the most impressive and inspiring student-athlete to take the field in the main gymnasium. from Alaska Airlines. Center on Thursday afternoon.
Ulroan gets around with the help of a wheelchair, but that hasn’t stopped him from finding or participating in a sport he could participate in, Chevak’s coach Anthony Boyscout said.
“He inspired a few kids,” Boyscout said. “Back home there are a few things to do, but it’s the only sport and event he can do and he’s competitive.”
Ulroan and his fellow Olympians competed in the 2020 and 2021 games virtually from their respective cities, towns and communities, from the most populated regions to the most remote parts of the state.
“It’s exciting,” Boyscout said of the in-person games returning. “The children are happy, they are all ready to go. All our children were happy everywhere.
Outside of practicing for the event itself, wrist carry training includes several exercises that engage and strengthen the wrist and upper body.
“I hold on to my wrists and do pull-ups,” Ulroan said.
He said he tries to do as many pull-ups as he can in practice, and the most he’s ever done consecutively was 50. His teammates and carriers say he can do more pull-ups than anyone on the team.
“It’s very impressive,” Boyscout said. “We built a little contraption for him to do pull-ups and wrist training when he was in seventh grade.”
Ulroan said being able to actually compete in a sport despite his disability means a lot to him, and he intends to continue competing even after he graduates as the age limit for participants in the games is 19.
Dillingham’s Ethan Jenkins took first place on the wrist with a mark of 535 feet, 3 3/4 inches. The junior has also been taking part in the games since he was in seventh grade and is both happy and grateful to have the opportunity to do so in person after a two-year hiatus.
[’You can always go further mentally than you can physically’: Wrist carry champions test their resolve]
“It’s really great just the hype and everything makes you feel good,” Jenkins said.
Bethel High School senior Landon Smith is participating in the games for the first time this year. He produced a respectable mark, but it wasn’t far enough to earn him a spot on the podium, uncharted territory for the four-time state champion wrestler.
“It was a lot of fun watching everyone go past me and seeing what the right distance was,” Smith said. “My friends told me to try, I tried and I really liked it.”
Smith wasn’t the only state champion wrestler to compete in the games. Myles Campbell of the Mat-Su A-Team not only competed in the wrist carry, his mark of 396 feet, 3 1/2 inches was far enough to earn him third place. As a member of Redington High School’s wrestling team, he won the Division II title for the 112-pound weight class.
Joanna Hopson of Anchorage is the trainer and mother of Girls Alaskan High Kick champion Eden Hopson. She said she was thrilled the games were not only back in person, but that face masks were no longer required indoors, so the emotions of coaches and athletes could be seen.
“It’s amazing to see everyone’s faces,” Hopson said. “Just being in person and not having a mask on is huge because you can see the smiles, see the disappointments and then the smiles afterwards makes a huge difference. It’s so nice to be with people again.
Her daughter echoed similar sentiments after winning her event.
“I like it a lot more,” Hopson said. “We can see each other’s faces, be able to talk with them, be able to help each other, be much more encouraging. It’s much more different from when we were virtual with just our own team.