by Kathleen Lippa
Iqaluit (Apr 05/04) – It wasn’t just David Kelly’s snowmobile that won him the 2004 Nunavut Snow Challenge, it was also his spirit.
With a dislocated shoulder and hands numb from the cold, Kelly, 21, of Iqaluit powered through the finish line and became the youngest person to ever win the exciting race between Kimmirut and Iqaluit on March 27.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Kelly on Tuesday. “It was a dream of mine for so long, and it came true!”
Kelly, riding a 2004 Polaris XE 700 he bought last fall, weathered a blizzard near Kimmirut, big rocks that nearly wrecked his machine and treacherous sea ice to win the 360 km race.
“I have made a lot of mistakes over the years,” he said, recalling his Nunavut Snow Challenge attempt last year when he ran out of gas. “You learn from them,” he said.
Luck played a role in the win, too, he said, despite the number 13 he was wearing.
The Nunavut Snow Challenge got worldwide attention this year. It was broadcasted on TSN and will also show on the Outdoor Life Network April 17, 22 and 26.
Kelly, who still can’t believe he won, was awarded $10,000 in prize money following a banquet at the Cadet Hall in Iqaluit.
Other Prizes included: (Woody’s Product Credit, Airline Tickets for 2 from Canadian North and 1 year supply of NGK Spark Plugs)
He is splitting that money with his gas man and using some of the cash to repair his sled, which suffered some damage on the rocks during the race.
His shoulder is healing, too, after he flew “like Superman” over the handbars of his sled at one point during the race. He recovered quickly enough to pull through the finish line, recording a time of three hours and 16 minutes.
Kelly dedicated his race to his two children, Simata Akavak Cote, 3, and Jose Kilabuk Cote Kelly, 1, as well as his large family who embraced him as the checkered flag waved him through on Frobisher Bay.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
Kelly wants to defend his Nunavut Snow Challenge title next year, and is planning on a trip to Kuujuuaq next week for another snowmobile race.
His advice to aspiring racers is “drive safely and keep your ski-doo maintained.”
If he could go back to last Saturday and do anything differently in the race, what would he do?
“Go faster,” he said.
Did he know how fast he was going when he was out there?
“No. I don’t really look at the speedometer,” he said with a smile.
Forty competitors from Nunavut and Nunavik competed this year. They roared off the starting block, braving a blizzard, pack ice and hidden rocks on the route described as a “centuries old” trading route between Kimmirut and Iqaluit. Aside from the OLN and TSN broadcast the race will also be immortalized on tape. (The event airs on TSN, May 1st at 11:00am)
Nunavut Productions is making a documentary video and DVD of the event, featuring music by The Northern Pikes and more helicopter footage than you would see on the half-hour television broadcast. That film will be available by June at Northern stores.
Article & photos copyright Kathleen Lipp, 2004.