Talk about a pain in the neck!


There was some stiff competition at the Carlson Center this weekend as women at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics squared off for the head pull.


They positioned themselves up on their hands and toes with their backs arched. Officials placed a thick leather strap around both competitors’ necks. The goal was to pull the strap off your opponent’s head or at least drag them a few feet across the red line on your side.


“The head pull imitates two walrus fighting,” Nicole Johnston explained. “It’s two walrus going head to head against each other on the ice floe.”


Johnston was the returning champ.


“I keep my hips low and just push back hard,” she said of her technique.


However, there were plenty of other ladies looking to dethrone her.


Mandy Sullivan was a force to be reckoned with as she powered through the pull, taking out some of the top contenders.


“When you’re under that strap it can really yank you forward,” said Deenaalee Hodgdon after she lost to Sullivan. “Especially with someone like Mandy who knows her game, knows her body, knows how to use all her muscles. Pulling against someone like her can definitely be challenging.”


The younger women used the game as a learning opportunity, taking advice from pros like Sullivan and Johnston.


“Our Native women are strong no matter what age they’re at,” Hodgdon said.


Sullivan knocked Johnston out of the game. While Johnston was disappointed, she was excited to see Sullivan take on Vanessa Tahbone in the final.


“It’s nice to have competition. When I did this in 2011, Vanessa was my only competition. She beat me today, so that’s good,” Johnston smiled.


Sullivan had to fight her way back from the loser’s bracket.


“I think my opponent is worn out,” Tahbone said, feeling confident. “She had to go four matches in a row.”


In the end, Sullivan couldn’t overcome the exhaustion and Tahbone took the title.


“It’s all for the love of the game and for our people and to entertain. The competition is there, but that’s not the target goal at all,” Tahbone said humbly.