Aqpik Peter

Chasing his dreams: Aqpik Peter leads way for Inuit youth 

Aqpik Peter is a candid Inuit youth with a taste for adrenaline and a talent for speed. Raised in Iqaluit, the northernmost capital in Canada, Aqpik has already pushed the frontiers of elite speed skating in his territory, making the podium at the Arctic Winter Games and chasing his dream of earning the most medals ever for Nunavut.

Aqpik began playing hockey, but switched to speed skating when he was 12 years old and his older brother encouraged him to try it out. John Maurice, president of Speed Skating Nunavut and Aqpik’s coach, said he knew from the very first day he saw Aqpik on the ice that Aqpik had the potential to be a champion.

“He’s got a good physique and he’s very, very fast – both getting off the line and in his reaction time. He’s got a lot of endurance and he’s very smart strategically,” said Maurice. “He’s kind of a model athlete for a coach to train,” added Maurice. “Because he’s intelligent and he’s got a good sensibility about himself – he knows what he wants to do, and he can set goals.”

Aqpik, whose nickname is ‘Icepick’, has demonstrated the talent and dedication that allow him to achieve a high level of elite athletic performance. He has won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Arctic Winter Games, represented Nunavut at the 2003 and 2007 Canada Winter Games, and competed in events across Canada and in the United States.

“It’s fun, and it’s lots of work,” said Aqpik. “I like the speed and you get to travel a lot.”

Aqpik’s favourite trip was to Calgary, where he got to see some of Canada’s national skaters at the Olympic Oval. “We went to a competition, and seeing people almost breaking world records was pretty exciting,” said Aqpik.

Aqpik said he likes racing against the skaters at national events because it helps him to improve on his own personal bests.

“You get nervous all the time, but afterwards it feels good,” Aqpik said. “When you’re against fast skaters you can beat your own personal best. When I go to those competitions I look forward to beating my time, and I pretty much always do.”

Raised by his grandmother, Aqpik is fluent in the Inuit language, Inuktitut. In 2006, he became the first person to deliver the Athlete’s Oath in an Aboriginal language at a national competition. He also demonstrates traditional Inuit games when dignitaries visit Iqaluit. When he isn’t training, Aqpik likes to hang out with his friends and play soccer. He also enjoys playing Inuktitut gospel music and Metallica on the guitar.

Aside from his regular training and competitions, 2006 was an eventful year for Aqpik. Not only was he recognized as an Outstanding Youth Volunteer for the City of Iqaluit, he was also selected to participate in the 2006 Nunavut Olympic Youth Academy hosted in Rankin Inlet.

VANOC’s Aboriginal Participation specialist, Lara Mussell Savage, immediately recognized Aqpik would be a great fit for the Aboriginal poster series, a campaign that seeks to inspire more Aboriginal youth to participate in sport and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Aqpik is the kind of person young kids can look up to. He is doing something he is passionate about and look where his dedication is taking him,” said Mussell Savage. “Meanwhile, he’s enjoying the speed and adrenaline that comes with his sport, overcoming obstacles, leading a healthy lifestyle and developing into a motivated and confident young man. Aqpik makes for a great role model for other Aboriginal youth in this country.”

Aqpik's participation in sport has helped shape his future into a promising one. With every day of training, he moves closer to his dream of working with the top coaches in Canada at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. He is also hoping to attend Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a college program for promising Inuit youth from Nunavut.

Aqpik believes his life could have worked out very differently if it wasn’t for his involvement in sports.

“If I hadn’t joined any sports I think it would be really hard not to get into drugs, bad habits and partying – that kind of stuff,” said Aqpik. “Speed skating has kept me out of that. I enjoy it a lot, and I love that I get to travel a lot and make new friends.”

 

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