Many of the teams participating in badminton this week at the North American Indigenous Games had never met before arriving in Toronto.
But that’s not the case for cousins Davidee Kudluarok and Mike Kavik, the 16U males double team from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut.
Team Nunavut coach Stephen Keoughan knows that their relationship gives them an advantage.
“They’re used to practicing together, they’re used to playing together and they can train together,” said Keoughan. “So they know what they can do, they can help each other out if I happen to be on another court.”
Aside from their experience playing together, Kudluarok and Kavik can attribute their success to strong offensive and defensive play.
“For the doubles, it’s their attacking, they’re very strong attackers,” said their coach. “But it’s just their consistency of keeping the bird going, keeping it in the court.”
Visiting Toronto from a town of less than 1,000 people has been a bit of a shock for the boys, but they’re making the adjustment.
“It’s been great, they just loved Canada’s Wonderland,” said Keoughan. “This is the biggest city they’ve been to so it’s a new experience for them.”
What did Kudluarok think about Wonderland? One word:
This week, Kudluarok and Kavik have seen a rivalry start to brew between themselves and Yann Gregoire and Nathaniel Mckenzie who represent Team Eastern Door and the North.
In singles play, Kavik lost to ED’s Mckenzie in the quarter finals (21-16, 21-12) and Kudluarok dropped a close match against Gregoire in the semis (23-21, 21-19).
To make matters worse, Kavik’s and Kudluarok’s respective mixed doubles teams both lost in the semifinals to Gregoire’s and Mckenzie’s.
Before being eliminated from singles contention, there was a possibility of the cousins meeting in the gold medal match. Asked who they thought would take it, they were surprisingly in agreement.
“Oh Mike,” said Kudluarok, while Kavik nodded in agreement. “(Mike would win) because he’s bigger.”
Despite being robbed of a chance to play each other with a gold medal on the line, Kavik and Kudluarok did meet up in the bronze medal match for mixed doubles, along with their partners Carla Kaayak and Lucy Jo Appaqaq, respectively.
The boys’ inclination turned out to be correct, as Kavik and Kaayak took the match (18-21, 23-21, 22-20), to secure the bronze.
Kudluarok was able to match his cousin’s success, when he claimed a bronze of his own in singles.
To close out their time at the games, the cousins had a chance for redemption, going up against their new rivals Mckenzie and Gregoire in the doubles gold medal match. Kavik and Kudluarok ultimately came up short again (18-21, 21-13, 21-12).
However, with their victory in game one, they became the only team all tournament to take a game off of Mckenzie and Gregoire, and were rewarded with a silver medal for their efforts.
All told, Kavik and Kudluarok were equals at the Games, bringing in two medals apiece, one silver and one bronze, for their home territory of Nunavut.