Ancient Amulets on Olympic race suit

Ukaleq Astri Slettemark, 20 years of age, was one of four athletes who shot the perfect 20/20 during the individuals of Beijing 2022. This great performance at the range, however, was not the only reason for many to spot her during these Olympics: a Danish flag is indeed not going unnoticed, as it can be considered a rather unusual presence when it comes to biathlon. However, Slettemark is a regular in IBU Cup and has made her debut in the BMW IBU World Cup last winter, where she competes for Greenland. Coming to the biggest stage of her career, she wanted to take a piece of her homeland with her and maybe trigger some of the ancient magic of her folk by designing some amulet signs on her racing suit.

They are called tunniit, the traditional tattoo markings that people used to have on their bodies and now are becoming popular again”, she explained showing us the details of the wrists and calves of her racing suit: “Greenlandic people used to get them with hand stitching; the needle they used was dipped into fat or coal and sewed into the skin with a thread. These symbols used to carry secret meaning”.

In a mixture of mystical curiosity and love for her roots, she chose carefully which symbols to draw on the design she made even before knowing she would qualify for the Olympics: “when I qualified for the IBU World Championships, this was big! So I wanted something special and I decided to design the racing suit by myself.

The harpoon -called tuukaq- can have different meanings, but it was mostly used by men to bring good luck for hunting. Then there’s qulleq, which is the amulet for light. And another tunniit is connected to family, either people who are dead or your siblings”, Slettemark explained.

I wanted something that had some Greenlandic meaning to be part of the racing suit,” she added: “I even thought about getting the whole national costume, but I thought that’d be too much and too hard to design. I love that now that I am at the Olympics, and here I compete for Denmark, there’s still a piece of Greenland with me”.

With a 92% hit-rate during the season and a spotless performance in the 15km individual of Tuesday, one might believe that on top of hard work and good techniques, these amulets might even carry more than a memory of her artic roots. But this is a sort of magic that goes beyond the Olympic spirit…

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