2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings – Canadian Olympic Curling Trials
Presented by Monsanto

Sochi already on the minds of Canada’s top curlers

The Canadian Curling Association asked me to pen a blog series for www.curling.ca to provide insight into what curlers go through in our preparation for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials in December.

Nolan Thiessen, left, and teammate Carter Rycroft sweep a rock while wearing Canadian colours at the 2010 World Men’s Curling Championship in Italy. (Photo, CCA/Michael Burns Jr.)

I am not sure if they asked me to blog for them due to my ability to wax poetic about curling as seen on teamkoe.ca, or if it’s a new initiative to give front-enders more publicity, but I jumped at the opportunity to connect with fans on this platform.

I figured that a great place to start was to talk about the Olympic Excellence Series (OES) that I was privileged enough to attend in early May this year. I was one of nine Canadian curlers who were able to attend the event in Vancouver, and I can say that, personally, I left the event feeling more patriotic than I have ever been in my life.

I was able to attend the same event in May 2009 before the Vancouver Olympic Games and easily the biggest change I could feel at the event was the overall faith in each other as amateur athletes. The Vancouver Olympics not only brought out a greater sense of patriotism in all Canadians, but it showed our country that we can compete and dominate at the highest levels of sport. Being in that room with all of the other Canadian athletes, from all of the Olympic disciplines, you could tell that everyone was so proud to be Canadian and proud to be able to compete with the Maple Leaf on their gear. Canada now expects to win and medal at all sports at the Olympics; not just at curling and hockey.

The OES featured many great presenters and their stories inspired everyone. From Chef-de-Mission Steve Podborski and Assistant-Chef Jean-Luc Brassard to Simon Whitfield and Clara Hughes, there were first-ballot Hall of Fame Canadian Olympic athletes throughout the weekend who shared their stories and inspired us.

I, like many of you out there, am an Olympic aficionado. Since the Olympic flame rolled through my hometown of Brandon, Man., when I was seven years old before the Calgary Games in ’88, I have had a passion for the Olympics and have always looked at the Olympic athletes from this country as extra special. They don’t compete for millions of dollars; they compete because they love their country and love to compete. So meeting these athletes whom I’ve watched on TV and hearing their stories made me realize that this is possible, that the Olympic dream is possible for me and for Team Koe.

My favourite presenter of the weekend was Canadian Women’s Soccer team head coach John Herdman. As a former baseball player, I have never had a huge love affair with soccer but I was totally hooked in August 2012 when our underdog girls battled (and were jobbed by the Norwegian ref) against the heavily favoured Americans.

Some of Canada’s top curlers attended the Olympic Excellence Series in Vancouver, including, from left, Jeff Stoughton, Mike McEwen, Chelsea Carey, Kaitlyn Lawes, Alison Kreviazuk, Stefanie Lawton and Heather Nedohin. (Photo, CCA)

He didn’t harp on the disappointment of the semifinal, instead focusing one of the key points in his speech on the bronze-medal game for our girls against France. As anyone who watched that game knows, our girls had the play taken to them, but they battled and gritted it out until the end when a goal in the dying moments won them a bronze medal. True Canadian spirit and fight at its finest for sure, one team “Giving their everything” for a medal. His feeling was that they won because that team is made up of good people. He said Canadians are just overall good people; we treat each other well, we work hard … and in the end good things happen to good people. He then asked of us athletes are we are good people?

The key point that hit home for me from his speech in regards to my personal preparation for the Trials was when was the last time you had a “holy crap moment”? He said what is life without being able to have a few “holy crap moments”? I assume that waking up on Sunday morning Dec. 8, knowing that you are about to play in the final of the Trials would be a “holy crap moment” and I’d love to be able to experience that and hopefully be able to thrive under that pressure. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity so why be afraid of it?

John’s speech really turned up the patriotism dial when he started discussing our national anthem. He said we should take pride in our anthem and really listen to the meaning of the words. “Strong and free”, “Stand on guard for thee”, “Glorious and free” — all strong statements and strong language that we should be proud of when we hear our anthem. Needless to say, by the end of his speech he had all athletes and support staff so proud to be Canadian and proud to be potential Olympians from Canada. It’s funny that an Englishman created that kind of reaction out of a group of Canadians.

Be a good person, do not be afraid of the “holy crap moments” in life and be proud to be Canadian. All of these qualities along with the requisite hard work are traits that Canadian curlers can hang their hats on going forward.

When I caught my flight home at the end of the weekend I thought back on the numerous exciting moments that the weekend provided myself and all athletes and it excites me about what being a Canadian Olympian is all about and I sure hope I get the chance to experience it in February 2014 (even though there are so many great teams that want to have something to say about that!).