Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

PROUD PICKLEBALLERS – The pickleballers from the inaugural Yukon Pickleball Championships gathered for a photo at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse Saturday.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

CONCENTRATION – Open event winner Brenda Dion returns the ball while Brian Craven looks on.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

STRONG EFFORT – Ewa Dembek returns the ball during the Open event. Dembek finished third, as female players swept the top three positions.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

REACHING FOR A RETURN – Collen Clark returns the ball during the Open event.

Inaugural Yukon Pickleball Championships take place

The inaugural Yukon Pickleball Championships took place Saturday at the Canada Games Centre (CGC) in Whitehorse.

By Morris Prokop on August 31, 2023

The inaugural Yukon Pickleball Championships held serve Saturday at the Canada Games Centre (CGC) in Whitehorse.

Participants included players from Skagway, Carcross, Marsh Lake and Whitehorse.

Competition took place in two categories, the Intermediate and Open events.

Each event featured 20 players.

Based on a points system, four participants were eliminated in the first round in each event.

Players were then grouped into foursomes.

The Star dropped by the CGC Saturday morning to take in the Open event.

Jim Gilpin, president of the Yukon Pickleball Association (YPA), said, “It’s a format that I think is enjoyable. It’s a round-robin type of format, which allows most of the players to play in three different round-robins. Where they go for the next round-robin is based on how they performed on the previous one.”

There were five players each on four courts in the opening round. The fifth-ranked player on each court was eliminated from the tournament.

The other 16 players continued, with the top eight on Courts 1 and 2. The bottom eight played on Courts 3 and 4.

The best four of the top eight then played on Court 1 for the finale.

The second four of the top eight played for fifth to eighth positions on Court 2.

There were a total of three rounds, so the players not eliminated in the first rounds played a total of 10 games in the doubles-only tournament.

“Pickleball is mainly a doubles game, although there is singles pickleball and it occupies the same court area and you see young people doing it. It’s quite amazing. But most of us, it would be beyond our ability to handle,” related Gilpin.

When asked how it’s going so far, Gilpin replied, “Well, I’m still in the tournament, so that’s good.

“One of the challenges in setting this up – and I’m the one that set this up – is trying to balance the people on the various courts for the first round. It’s particularly difficult, because some of these people, I’ve never seen play before. I haven’t seen all the results yet, but what I’ve seen so far kind of makes sense. The person that ended up fifth, I’m not surprised by.

“The other 16 that are remaining are all gonna be pretty decent players and the range of skill level is going to be fairly tight, so I’m expecting Round 2 will be a lot of fun and then who knows. It’s a little bit of a luck of the draw who’s going to end up in the upper echelon for Round 3. So come back in an hour and a half.”

The afternoon Intermediate format was exactly the same.

Gilpin said the Open category in the morning was designed for the more “competitive” players.

“That’s not even the right word to use, because the intermediates are just as competitive, they’re maybe not quite as skilled,” remarked Gilpin.

The open competitors weren’t necessarily the most experienced, either.

“We all reach plateaus,” explained Gilpin, “and some people may have a fair bit of experience but they’ve reached a lower plateau.

“But in general, you should expect a higher skill level in this Open event.”

The wild card in the events were five players from Skagway. Of those, four were in intermediate.

“The Open event filled up sooner, so there was no choice but to sign up for the Intermediate event … so there might be a ringer out there in the intermediate event that might just slaughter everybody,” said Gilpin.

As a matter of fact, one of the Skagway athletes, Jared Schmidt, captured the Intermediate crown.

John Streicker came in from Marsh Lake and played in the Open event. Commenting on the diversity of locales players came from, Streicker said, “You don’t get that opportunity to play with a bunch of new players and you don’t even know how you’re gonna do. So it’s exciting.

“We play in gyms that are really tiny, so you always have to call ‘let’ whenever it’s going near a wall, so it’s great. It’s fun.”

Streicker was part of the top foursome in Round 2 on Court 1.

“I came out in the top couple of people and so I’m movin’ on. We’ll see how I do.”

Streicker added, “I am really excited I get to play. I’ve had such a crazy travel summer … two days ago I was in Herschel Island and tomorrow I’m leaving for Quebec City. It’s been hectic, so it’s really nice to get a chance right in the middle of it to come and do this and sweat and have a laugh.”

Joanne Love, who finished second in the Open event, commented, “It’s a different format but it’s the first one we’ve had. We haven’t had many championships or competitive games in a long, long time, so it’s nice to see the YPA doing it.”

Love said she was pleased by how the Open was going for her. “I was one of the top scorers in the first five games, so that was really good.”

Love said she had “challenging opponents throughout the games, so it’s great.”

Love said her only goal was to “play well. And be a good partner.”

Gilpin added, “It’s just great to see pickleball’s growing. Our membership now is almost at 150 and our biggest challenge is finding places to play. We are, and have been now for several years, working to try to find a place for dedicated pickleball courts, either indoors or outdoors, and certainly in other communities. Once that has occurred, pickleball will grow in leaps and bounds. So I’m optimistic for the future but we are constrained right now by the lack of facilities.”

Here are the results from the Yukon Pickleball Champs:

Intermediate Event

  1. Jared Schmidt (Skagway)
  2. Sue Lin
  3. Armil Ramos

Open Event

  1. Brenda Dion
  2. Joanne Love
  3. Ewa Dembek (Marsh Lake)

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