Wednesday saw the 2014 World Eskimo-Indian Olympics get under way in Fairbanks, pitting competitors against one another in a variety of traditional contests drawn from across the state.

Over the course of four days, WEIO’s events will test the boundaries of mental and physical toughness, as they emulate survival skills developed by Alaska’s first inhabitants.

Quickness and balance are necessary for anyone out on moving ice during spring breakup. Those skills are prerequisites for the kneel jump, which challenges athletes to jump as far forward as possible from a kneel into a squat on their feet.

“You want to get the best grip you can,” said WEIO competitor Kyle Worl. “What I do is sometimes breathe into my hands and wipe my legs so that the condensation can help my grip, so everyone has their own little techniques -- some people rub water, some shave their legs.”

In Wednesday's event finals, Worl posted a kneel jump of 60 and 1/4 inches Wednesday, claiming the gold medal for the men.

“This is a first time I've got the gold for the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, so I'm really happy about it,” Worl said.

For the women, Amber Carpluk took the gold with a jump of 51 and 1/2 inches.

“I'm super-excited,” Carpluk said. “This is the event I train for each year, so I was pretty happy that I was able to win it.”

While the jump isn't simple, being a part of tradition is.
“It's a really great way to connect back to culture, and it gives a greater respect for our ancestors and the harsh lives that they had to live through,” Worl said.

“I love that we can celebrate our culture here in Alaska with friends and visitors, and just show the great things about being in Alaska and what it means,” Carpluk said.

Worl and Carpluk were set to receive their gold medals in the kneel jump at a ceremony Wednesday evening.