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MQFT with Sterling Middleton

This week, John sits down with a junior curler who has done a lot of great things and hails from the small town of Fort St. John, British Columbia, Sterling Middleton. A Youth Olympic gold medallist, two-time Canadian Junior Champion, a World Junior Champion, and most recently a Canadian Collegiate Champion, Sterling’s record to this point has been, well…pretty stirling.

Welcome to Magical Question Fun Time, the Curling Canada feature where comedian John Cullen sits down with your favourite curlers for interviews like you have never seen. Each interview will feature eight questions: five standard questions that will be asked to each curler, two questions specific to that curler, and one question that the curler interviewed before them asks.

Sterling Middleton (WCF/Richard Gray photo)

1. What’s the nicest shot you’ve ever been a part of?

Sterling Middleton: I think when we threw the double for four against Matt Hall in the junior finals last year. Ironically it’s the biggest shot I’ve ever been a part of, but didn’t have a whole lot to do with it. But I do get the best seat in the house to watch it come down.

John Cullen: That was a pretty big shot because I guess it really got that game under control for you.

SM: I don’t know if we got it fully under control, but we had given up four points in the two ends prior to that, two without hammer and two off of a steal. It was key for us to get the momentum back, and especially getting four. The way the rocks were lined up, I knew it was there for three, but wasn’t sure we’d get the four, getting that fourth point was huge for us, especially with the home crowd behind us. It was a cool feeling.

JC: It’s funny that you say you didn’t have a lot to do on that shot as you were calling line, but I guess with big weight shots like that, there’s only so much you can do.

SM: Yeah, exactly. I let Tyler carry the team and I’m happy to give him a fist bump at the other end after he makes the shots. (laughs)

2. If there was an action figure made of you, what non-curling accessory would it come with?

SM: This might sound silly, but everywhere I go, I bring a backpack with me, and I’m a very organized person, so I think it would be a backpack filled with all my superstitious coins and candy.

JC: This is going to be an expensive action figure with all these little trinkets. Tell me about what’s in the backpack.

SM: It started at Canada Games. I’m from a small town, so I had just kind of started to get into competitive curling more, and so people would give me good luck things. For example, I have a nickel from 1962 that I thought was pretty cool. I left four golf balls in there after a round once, and they’re still in there. Things like that. If something is in there and we win stuff, it stays in there. If I buy a new backpack, it’s all gotta get transferred over.

JC: So you essentially take garbage out of an old backpack and put it into a new backpack?

SM: (laughs) Well…maybe not garbage, but I did have a sore throat at an event four years ago and someone gave me a cough candy I never ate. It’s still in there. The wrapper’s disintegrating, but hey, it’s been through some great times with me.

3. If you were forced to rob a bank, which two curlers—you can’t choose more than one teammate—would you choose to be on your squad, and what role would you play?

SM: It wasn’t hard for me to make my two choices. First, we would need someone who could joke around with the teller and distract them, so I’d pick Ben Hebert for that. Funny guy, and he’s a big dude, so if we need some help moving cash, he can help us out. And then for the stealth/strategy aspect, I’m going to go with my skip, Tyler Tardi. We stole four last ends to win games at the Canadian Juniors this year, so if I figure if you can steal that many 10th ends, you can steal money. (laughs)

During a bank robbery, Ben Hebert could distract anyone with his talking. Yes, even Brent Laing (Michael Burns/Curling Canada photo)

JC: (laughs) It’s tough to argue with that logic. I’m surprised more people haven’t said those things about their skips. And what are you gonna do?

SM: I’ll be the lookout. Just like curling, I’ll take the best seat in the house. Plus, they’ll need someone to keep it light on the headsets, I’ll keep them updated on the outside world. Just like, “oh hey, look, there’s a dog outside that’s cute,” you know, things like that.

4. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

SM: Well, being a student is a pretty crappy job. (laughs) Don’t get me wrong, you gotta do it, and getting an education is great, but being a student and trying to curl doesn’t work out too well. We try to take a lighter course load to help us deal with the weekends away, but it feels like you’re playing one big game of catch-up all the time.

JC: I feel that. Do you have any professors that have been tough to deal with about it? I didn’t play anywhere near the schedule you guys do in juniors but still ran into problems.

SM: We’ve been really lucky, but the problem is that it only takes one. If you have one instructor who just doesn’t get it, you’re in tough. Like I have one class right now where attendance and participation is 15 per cent of your grade, so I’m just taking a huge L on that one. (laughs)

JC: Yeah, that’s tough. I know you’ve told me before, but you’re taking some business courses, right?

SM: I am in Sports Science at Douglas College with a Rec/Health background, but I am taking some Business Management courses. I’m hoping maybe they’ll teach me how you can make money at curling. (laughs)

Sterling Middleton in action with his Douglas College team on the way to a gold medal at the 2018 CCAA/Curling Canada collegiate curling championships in Leduc, Alta. (Railene Hooper/Curling Canada photo)

5. What’s a stupid thing you incorrectly believed was true for a long time?

SM: I had to ask my mom for this one, I think it’s basically that I assumed I was gonna be a good student forever. I guess in grade 6 or 7, I had gotten all straight A’s and school was pretty easy for me. I told her that I just thought school was gonna be easy, and I was gonna get a bunch of scholarships, get into college, no problem. Now I’m in college and just passing classes and I’m super excited, like “way to go Sterling!” (laughs)

JC: I know that feeling. I definitely didn’t have to try too hard either, and I remember getting my first few bad marks and being like “what the hell is this?”

SM: I got my first B in grade 9 social studies, and it was basically the worst day of my life. I guess that’s when I knew that school wasn’t just going to be a cakewalk forever. But I hated social studies. I’m more of a math and numbers guy, so once I was able to justify it to myself, that it was just the product of taking a course I hated, it was fine.

6. Now on to the Sterling Middleton-specific questions, and first off, I have to ask about your hair. What I had heard was someone once told you that your hair looked like it took four hours to do, and you took that as the biggest compliment of your life. Are you that into it?

SM: (laughs) Oh jeez. Well, that’s not wrong. I’m pretty into my hair. I like to look good, and I do put a lot of effort into it. I have three different gels for three different grooming steps.

JC: (laughing) How do you use three different gels?

SM: Well, I shower and wash my hair every day. That’s important. And then I do gel for one step, then I blow dry, then I do gel for the next step, then blow dry, and then do it again. It takes me about 10 minutes or so every morning. The guys always make fun of me for getting up early to do it, but when I see a picture of me having a good hair day, I’m thrilled.

JC: Do you get in a bad mood if it’s done wrong?

SM: (laughs) Well, I have been told that if I know my hair doesn’t look good, my mood will be a bit flatter. My mood is definitely improved if it’s good, for sure.

JC: I will say, I do like the addition of the glasses this year. I have a nice pair of frames, and I think it’s important to get that going in curling.

SM: Thanks man. Funny story about that, I went to get glasses right after they had done the eye test, and I still had my pupils dilated from the test, so I couldn’t see anything. I just had to trust the lady. She gave me like six frames and I just trusted her. I think she did well. And I agree with you on the glasses. My lead, Zac Curtis, he was into it, and you have a good pair. I like David Mathers’ pair too. So we gotta keep it going.

It’s all about the hair and the frames: “When I see a picture of me having a good hair day, I’m thrilled,” says Sterling Middleton (WCF/Emile Gareev photo)

7. This next piece of information came in from your skip, Tyler Tardi, who said that you are his hero. I thought that was interesting so I guess I’ll pose it to you: are you Tyler’s hero?

SM: I guess I can confirm I am Tyler Tardi’s hero. He tells me at least once a week, so I guess I must be, right? (laughs) I can’t see how I could be someone’s hero, especially not someone who has accomplished more than me. He should be my hero. I do appreciate the compliment, even if it is sarcastic.

JC: So Tyler just calls you his hero once a week? It sounds kind of sarcastic, I won’t lie.

SM: Who knows. I’m taking it as a compliment. I was surprised the first time, I think he said it because I had a really good game or made a really big shot or something. It was our first season getting to know each other, and when he said that, I thought, “ok, now we’re getting more comfortable with each other, this is good.” And he’s stuck with it.

JC: Has he ever said it with the Enrique Iglesias song playing in the background? I feel like I can’t take it seriously until then.

SM: You know what, he hasn’t. But you’re right, if he hasn’t done it like that, does he even mean it? He might have to step his game up.

“I guess I can confirm I am Tyler Tardi’s hero. He tells me at least once a week, so I guess I must be, right?” (Curling Canada/Michael Burns photo)

8. And this last question comes in from Casey Scheidegger, who said that she actually asked her grade 9 class about it, so I guess this comes from her grade 9 class: if you were to be in the Olympics for a sport other than curling, what would it be and why?

SM: Well first of all, I’m honoured her class was talking about me, so thank you for that. To answer the question, I think for people who know me, they’d expect me to say golf. I work at a golf course and play golf nearly every day in the summer time. I have a fairly low handicap and so I think that would be the expected choice. But I have to say, watching the Olympics and seeing the other sports, I’ve decided that pairs figure skating is the tops. I mean, you have the opportunity to spin beautiful women around and throw them in the air as a sport? How cool is that?

JC: It seems pretty good. And this Olympics, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue were certainly all the rage.

SM: Exactly, they were beloved and the sport is super popular. I have a ton of work to do to make this happen and I’m not sure I’m tall enough. I probably have to do ice dance, rather than pairs, with my height, but I’ll make something happen for sure.

JC: And finally, my next guest will be your Canadian World Junior teammate and fellow gold medallist, Kaitlyn Jones. Do you have a question for her?

SM: I do! We got to know them a little bit in Scotland for sure, and I know that she’s really artistic, she likes to act, and sing, and I know she does a lot of plays. So I’d like you to ask her what her most embarrassing moment is during a play?

JC: Oh man, that’s an excellent question. I have to say that I don’t know a ton about Kaitlyn, so this is the perfect tidbit. Thanks so much Sterling, and best of luck next season with your new squad!

As always, you can follow John on Twitter @cullenthecurler.

Sterling Middleton (WCF/Emile Gareev photo)