Author: Laskaris, Sam
Date published: March 1, 2012
Journal code: ALSW
Dakota Belcourt is still considered to be a newcomer to the boxing game.
But the 15-year-old Métis can already boast about winning a silver medal at a prestigious provincial competition.
Belcourt, who lives in Edmonton, was just one of the more than 2,500 athletes who participated at this year's Alberta Winter Games.
A total of 20 sports were contested at the Games, which were staged Feb. 9-12. Competitions were held in three locations, Spruce Grove, Parkland County and Stony Plain.
"It was a great opportunity for him, especially for his age," said Belcourt's coach Rick Hoeppner.
The Games featured athletes ranging in age from 11-17 and representing eight zones within the province.
Numerous Aboriginal athletes took part but as Games' organizers do not keep track of their backgrounds, it is impossible to know exactly how many Aboriginal competitors there were.
The majority that did compete, however, were from zones 7 and 8, which encompass the Northeast and Peace Country areas, respectively.
Zone 8, with 269 athletes, ended up winning 31 medals, including eight gold. Zone 7 representatives at 276 captured 17 medals, six of them gold.
Zone 3, from Calgary, featured the highest number of athletes at 372 and had the most medals with 125. This zone also had the most medals of each colour; gold (41), silver (46) and bronze (38).
Some competitions required athletes to qualify in order to take part.
Belcourt, a member of Edmonton's Cougar Boxing, was part of Zone 6, which featured athletes from Edmonton.
Belcourt competed in the 60- kilogram category for Junior C athletes in boxing. Aside from being between 15-17 years, those taking part in the Junior C (novice) division were required to have had no more than 10 amateur fights. As competition was limited in this category at the Alberta Winter Games, Belcourt had only two matches. He won his opening bout and then settled for the silver medal after a close loss in his next contest.
Hoeppner was pleased with Belcourt's performances in his two fights, which featured three two-minute rounds.
"He did well," Hoeppner said. "He did his job."
Hoeppner also believes Belcourt, who first stepped into the ring last year, has a bright future ahead of him in the sport.
"He's still young," Hoeppner said. "But he's got great potential. He's new to the game."
Hoeppner added Belcourt has a perfect build for the sport.
"He's tall, he's got long arms and great movement. He's light on his feet and he can get up on his toes and dance around. That's what you want in a boxer."
Hoeppner believes his pugilist also has another important quality.
"He's got heart and that has to come from the boxer himself."
Meanwhile, Michelle Deering, the chef de mission for Zone 8, was still pleased with the number of medals her zone earned.
"This is one of our largest teams for Zone 8," she said. "And two of our hockey teams qualified. It did strengthen our numbers that way."
Besides allowing athletes to compete in a high-level event, Deering liked another aspect of the Games.
"It certainly is a unique event because they do all get to mix and mingle within the athletes village," she said.
BY SAM LASKARIS