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Male Athlete of the Week: Michael Fitzgerald

This week’s male Athlete of the Week is wheelchair curler, Michael Fitzgerald of Enfield, N.S.

Michael Fitzgerald

Birthdate: January 27, 1951
Birthtown: Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Hometown: Enfield, Nova Scotia
Curling Club: Lakeshore Curling Club
Current Team: Team Nova Scotia (Team Fitzgerald)
Position: Skip
Delivery: Right
Nickname: Fitz

Getting to know Michael Fitzgerald

Michael Fitzgerald has built himself quite a resume, both on and off the ice.

On the ice, he’s been a dominant force in Nova Scotia wheelchair curling; he’s claimed the last three provincial titles and has represented the Bluenose Province at the last three national championships, in 2008 at Winnipeg (3-4 record), 2009 at Halifax (3-6 record) and 2010 in Kelowna, B.C. (4-5 record, just out of the playoffs).

As well, Fitzgerald has worked behind the scenes to help wheelchair curling; he’s a Level 1 coach specializing in the wheelchair discipline, and has instructed many new wheelchair curlers in Atlantic Canada. Add to that his upcoming duties, volunteering at the 2011 Canada Winter Games (he’ll be an accessibility representative at the Mayflower Curling Club, which will host the curling competition) and you get the picture about Fitzgerald’s commitment to the Roaring Game.

Fitzgerald has also been active in the world of sailing; he had a 35-foot sailboat, but gave it up when the boat was sustained damage from Hurricane Juan in 2003. He actually went through three boats over the years when, as he puts it, “I was afflicted with 2-footitis.” He used those boats to explore the Atlantic Canada coastline, and ventured up the Saint John River and down into Maine.

“I wasn’t in a wheelchair during those years,” he says. “But I hobbled around on two canes so our sailing experiences were a major accomplishment for me.”

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Quick Hits with Michael Fitzgerald

Do you have any superstitions?
“A lot of superstitions will go through my head but only momentarily as they won’t stop me from stepping on that crack or spider. About the only one I pay attention to is not to go under ladders.”

Three people, living or not, whom you would invite to a dinner party.
“My teammates: Debbie Earle, Trendal Hubley- Bolivar and Laughie Rutt.”

If you could be a star any other sport, what would it be, and why?
“I read many, many stories about people who sailed alone across the oceans and around the world. Doing something like that, being the first wheelchair user to single-hand an ocean crossing is something I have thought about. The self-reliance involved when you are on your own can be exhilarating.”

If you could change any rule in curling, which one would it be, and why?
“In Nova Scotia stick curling there is a rule that sweeping is allowed from the hogline in. As wheelchair curlers do not sweep either their own or the opponents’ stones I would like a rule change where at the start of the game a player can declare they do not plan on sweeping (not their own or their opponents) and once they do declare the opposing player can only sweep their own teammates’ stones but not the opposition’s. This would level the playing field greatly and allow some of our more senior players to opt out of sweeping as I have seen some oldtimers put themselves at risk for falling.”

What music do you like to listen to before a game?
“Talk radio for me. CBC radio specifically and if they play a song that is fine but I don’t seek out music.”

Favourite:
— Website? “Lately it has been kijiji.ca; I have been looking at boats again. LOL!”
— Order from Tim Hortons? “The girls at the Tim’s near the airport know my order when they hear my diesel pull up to the speaker: medium black.”
Vacation destination? “The woods of New Brunswick in our fifth-wheel trailer on our retirement property. It replaced our boat; it doesn’t rock as much, but I still feel like a skipper when in it.”
— Junk food? “I’ll take a side of gravy with those fries.”

Do you have any pet peeves?
“I hate it when people cut into my lane too soon. I was taught to wait until you can fully see their headlights in your rear-view mirror but some of these people must be using their sideview if they are looking at all, as the headlights are fully visible in the sideview long before the rearview. And don’t get me started on tailgaters . . .”

Three things you always travel with?
“Debit cards, wheelchair and photo ID. Everyone wants to see my ID now. I feel like a minor being carded again.”

First thing on your Bucket List?
“Building that retirement home.”

Favourite pastime between draws at cashspiels?
“If a game is on, I like to watch it and armchair skip, of course. Otherwise, passing the time chatting is always relaxing.”

One thing most people don’t know about you?
“I am laughing under my serious exterior.”

What is the biggest misconception about curlers?
“That we yell a lot; well, OK, Northern Ontario likes to yell at their rocks.”

Your ideal shot to win an Olympic gold medal:
“A crowd-pleasing shot is always a draw to the button through a port.”