• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 20s

Playing through the pain

By Heather Hintze 8:53 AM March 21, 2014

The finger pull is based on strength traditionally needed for fishing

FAIRBANKS – The finger pull is an excruciating test of endurance: It’s also one of the most painful events to watch at the Arctic Winter Games.

“It’s really difficult because if you mess up and let your fingers go your tendons will snap up,” explained Misty May Wilmarth Agoff from Team Alaska. “You have to really know your technique to be able to pull without getting hurt.”

Occasionally, though, that happens. One competitor from Team Yukon snapped her finger back and writhed in pain on the floor, grabbing her arm until medics arrived.

Officials keep a close eye on athletes to make sure there are no infractions, like twisting or jerking.

They said it can be hard to watch though.

“You feel the guys pain, physically, when they’re going through it,” said Dene Games Official Peter Daniels. “Then there are the female girls when they’re going through it and crying and you want to feel sorry for them and give them a big group hug kind of thing. It’s a game of pain, this one, for sure.”

“Good! Hold it, hold it, hold it, HOLD IT!” shouted Marjorie Tahbone. She’s played the finger pull for years; this year she’s coaching Team Alaska.

“It’s always super painful to have to keep pulling because it’s only one finger, twice or potentially three times,” Tahbone said. “It’s only your right hand and it’s only your middle finger. After 10 or 15 pulls it’s extremely painful. So I don’t want my girls to take an extra pull if they don’t have to.”

The game is based on strength ancestors needed when they were fishing.

“The Dene people were living on the land,” Daniels said. “A lot of time the fishing camps, the men and women would use their middle finger as a carry and put it through the gills to bring the fish up to the main camp.”

He said that skill also came in handy when they were tanning a moose hide.

“Just like the game, you can’t twist, you can’t jerk,” he gestured, turning his wrist. “If you tried pulling moose hide that way you’d rip it. So it’s a very practical game. All the Dene games are made from living off the land, a lot of hunting and harvesting situations.”

Athletes said it means a lot to them that the Dene games are included at the Arctic Winter Games.

“Lots of pride,” Tahbone said. “Just to be proud of who they are and where they come from and to play a sport their ancestors participated in a long time ago.”

Playing through the pain is just part of the game. It’s a life lesson to keep going when things get tough.

Latest Stories

  • News

    March for Science draws large crowd in downtown Anchorage

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 22, 17:33

    About 1,500 Alaskans gathered in downtown Anchorage Saturday morning to stand in solidarity with science. The March for Science is part of a national movement to increase the visibility of the scientific community and voice concerns about President Donald Trump’s policies regarding issues like climate change and healthcare. Bryan Box, a lead organizer for the Anchorage […]

  • Politics

    Trump says he’ll mark 100 days with Pennsylvania rally

    by Associated Press on Apr 22, 16:22

    President Donald Trump says he’ll mark his 100th day in office with a “BIG” rally in Pennsylvania. Trump hits 100 days on April 29 – next Saturday. He tweeted about the rally this Saturday, saying that next week “I will be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania. Look forward to it!” Next Saturday night I […]

  • News

    VIDEO: American Airlines flight attendant grounded after altercation caught on camera

    by Associated Press on Apr 22, 16:01

    The Latest on the confrontation on an American Airlines flight (all times local): 6 p.m. A passenger on an American Airlines flight says a flight attendant who has since been grounded nearly hit a baby when he jerked a stroller away from a woman holding the child. Olivia Morgan, an executive with an education-related nonprofit, […]

  • Lifestyle

    Photos: Alaskans march for science on Earth Day

    by KTVA Web Staff on Apr 22, 15:45

    Over 1,000 participants cheered and waved signs under clear, blue skies Saturday at the March for Science in Downtown Anchorage. The march was part of the larger worldwide event organized on Earth Day to recognize and bring awareness to scientific, fact-based decision making, which many feel has been under threat since the election of President Donald Trump. […]

  • News

    Ketchikan seafood processors to see water rate hikes

    by Associated Press on Apr 22, 13:14

    Officials in Ketchikan have approved an ordinance that more than doubles water rates for the southeast Alaska city’s seafood processors over the next three years. The Ketchikan Daily News reports the City Council approved the ordinance Thursday. Water rates will increase by 35 percent each year over the next three years for Ketchikan’s three fish processors […]

  • News

    New fees instituted at Interior Alaska recreation sites

    by Associated Press on Apr 22, 13:00

    The state will start charging fees for the popular Chena River State Recreation Area and other recreational sites in Interior Alaska next month. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that visitors to the 12 sites within the Chena recreation area will have to pay a $5 entrance fee starting in May. The daily fees will also go […]

  • On-Air

    Inside the Gates: JROTC cadets train on JBER

    by Bonney Bowman on Apr 22, 12:41

    Many high school students join the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program as a way to decide if they want to later enlist in the military. But for some, it’s a way to build confidence before heading to college and the workplace. JROTC cadets from East High School spent the day on Joint Base […]

  • News

    Hillside residents make preparations as wildfire season begins in Southcentral Alaska

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 22, 12:22

    Wildfire season has begun in Southcentral Alaska. People who live on the south end of Anchorage’s Hillside neighborhood got a scare Thursday night when police shut down the Seward Highway so firefighters could work on a fire near mile 105. It took 10 firefighters to get the two-acre fire under control. Michelle Corburn, who lives […]