If the name Shannon Birchard sounds familiar, there’s a very good reason for that! Birchard is most well-known for skipping Team Manitoba to a second place-finish at last year’s M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Championships in Fort McMurray, Alta., losing a close final to B.C’s Corryn Brown.
This didn’t just happen out of the blue though: Birchard’s been curling since she was five years old and playing competitively (and making junior provincials) since she was 12. Her credentials also include a gold medal finish at the U-18 Optimist International Curling Championship last year and back-to-back provincials wins the past two years.
What is Birchard doing these days? We caught up with the second-year science major (University of Winnipeg) to find out everything from her goals to which team she thinks will win the Trials.
With your success last year, do you feel that you have a target on your back?
Yes. I’m hoping that we can withstand the pressure this year. I have a new team this year since everyone on my previous team all aged out. We’re just focusing on this year.
Who is your idol or role model?
Kaitlyn Lawes and Jennifer Jones. It’s amazing the journey [Jones has] taken and how strong she’s stayed over the years. I also admire men’s curlers, especially Jeff Stoughton and Kevin Martin.
What’s the funniest/most memorable curling experience you’ve ever had?
That’s a tough one, there’s so many! It’s hard to pick out just one. I’ve played with a lot of different girls and had some great times.
If you had to choose just one that’s memorable from the recent past?
Well here’s one. It was embarrassing at first and we ended up laughing about it later. We were playing in Toronto last year and I was playing horribly. I don’t even know how we ended up winning the game. We had a wide-open shot to take three and I ended up doubling out our rocks and giving them points. That was the worst shot I’ve ever thrown. Don’t even understand how that could’ve happened. It was unbelievable. My team was great about it and we laughed it off.
What is your favourite shot to throw (and why)?
My favourite shot to throw is probably a draw to the button – an outturn. It’s always nice to throw the big weight, but it’s also good to take it down a notch. I find that it’s a team shot and you put everyone into the equation. It’s very satisfying.
Speaking of team, what is the best part about being on a team?
The friendship. You’re spending all this time together and you really become a second family with your teammates. All the girls in Manitoba are extremely friendly, even with other teams. It’s the friendship that’s important in curling.
What is your favourite place to eat while on the road at spiels?
We try to go for something healthier. Subway’s always a good option. In the past, we’ve ended up cooking or bringing meals, easier to manage with allergies and finding options that are healthier. We try to get a kitchenette while staying at hotels.
What are your future curling goals?
Of course the Olympics is the ultimate goal, but we have to focus on this year. We’re hoping to win provincials and get back to nationals. I want to better my [round robin] record, win the gold and go to junior worlds.
And now for the tough question… which two teams do you think will represent Canada in Sochi in February?
I would have to say Rachel Homan has a really great shot. In the past she’s always been successful. Would love to see a Manitoba team go, so I would say Jones. She’s such a great payer and her team is so great. On the guys’ side, McEwen has a good chance. Glenn Howard is always a favourite and has a good chance. Their team is so consistent they’ve kinda stepped it up a notch in the past couple years.
All the best to Birchard and her team this upcoming season in their quest to head back to nationals!