Olympic Insider Report – February 22nd

It seems the Insider didn’t get the full story about Pat Bernard and Lucille O’Connor’s trip to Whistler on Saturday. The Team Canada moms — Pat, of course, is Cheryl’s mother while you probably also figured out that Lucille is Susan’s mother, right? — took a trip to Whistler aboard the Alberta government’s specially chartered train, which leaves Vancouver every morning at 6 o’clock and goes gets people back to Vancouver at 9 o’clock at night. Anyways, during a lovely day on the mountain, Pat and Lucille decided to go to the top of Whistler Mountain. They took a gondola ride up, and then took the new Peak to Peak gondola, which carries people from the top of Whistler to the top of Blackcomb Mountain. It’s an engineering marvel that just opened this year and has been featured on a number of TV shows. The trouble is, Pat and Lucille aren’t all that excited about heights! And wouldn’t you know it, the gondola they were in had a glass bottom so that you could see all the way to the ground, some 400 metres below! Once they got to the other side, they decided that a return trip didn’t sound so great, so they decided to find an alternate way down. Oops! No such luck, so they had to get back on the Peak to Peak gondola in order to get back down to Whistler Village. “We never looked down,” Pat reports to the Insider. “We were scared right out of our freaking minds!” The Insider can’t really blame them a bit! Fortunately, Pat and Lucille made it down in time to catch the train home, and were right back at the rink on Sunday morning to watch their daughters beat the United States. It’s quite amazing, by the way, to see the number of Canadian connections with the competing teams. For instance, Dan Rafael of Montreal is coaching the Chinese women’s team skipped by Bingyu Wang, and that team, of course, won the gold medal at the Mount Titlis world women’s championship last year in Gangneung, South Korea. On the German women’s team, third Melanie Robillard is a Canadian; she was born in New Brunswick and grew up to Ottawa before moving to Belgium with her family when her father, a former RCMP officer, accepted a job with NATO. She’s eligible to play for Germany because her mother was born there. One of the coaches for Japan’s Moe Meguro team is Vancouver’s Fuji Miki; Fuji is a former Brier participant, way back in 1979, and his son Bryan won the Brier and world championship in 2000 playing second for Greg McAulay. And the U.S. women’s team has a few Canadian angles. The skip, Debbie McCormick, was born in Saskatoon, and her dad and coach, Wally Henry, was born in Portage la Prairie, Man. Also, the U.S. head coach, Rodger Schmidt, played in the Brier in 1978 as the lead for Rick Folk, but also played in two world men’s championships for Germany, skipping that country to a silver in 1987 at B.C. Place Stadium right here in Vancouver when he lost the final to a guy named Russ Howard. Rodger’s coaching career has taken him all over the place! Now, he’s working for the U.S. (he lives in Switzerland), but he also coached in the Czech Republic, Italy and Austria before getting his current job. Tomorrow we’ll tell you about the Canadian connections on the men’s teams that are playing at the Vancouver Olympic Centre. In the meantime, enjoy the curling! We’re getting close to the medal round and it’s getting exciting!