Youth Olympic Dreams: Adventures in Brandon, Manitoba

The team got together in Brandon, Manitoba, for one last event before the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck. Everyone flew to Winnipeg on Thursday, with our first game Friday morning at the Sun Life Financial Junior Challenge. The weekend got off to a slow start. Both Thomas and I had flight delays, so Helen, Corryn and Derek all waited for us to arrive, with me flying in last at 8:00 p.m. Then the very long, slow car drive began. We realized very soon that the snow that hadn’t seemed so bad in Winnipeg was now causing slim to no visibility on the highway. The further we went, the worse it seemed to get. To make matters worse, every time a tractor trailer passed us (which was often) our visibility dropped immediately to zero and we would have to sit there and wait for the snow to settle before we could go on again.

Youth Olympians Emily Gray (l) and Corryn Brown (r) show off their new Canada pants in Brandon, Manitoba (Photo E. Gray)

We eventually did make it to Brandon, thankfully, safely.  Waiting for us in Brandon were some flashy new pants.  With our winnings from our last weekend together, we purchased some Canada pants from LoudMouth.  It was a great way to end a what seemed to be a neverending car ride!  Even though our excitement levels were high, we were all exhausted from the long day of traveling, and we had an early game the next day.  Bed never felt so good! Our first game was at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning. The ice was straight, so it kept the game close. We came out with a 5-3 win. Our next game, at 3:00 p.m., started off well, but we let it slip away with a 6-3 loss which dropped us into the ‘B’ division. Coming off the ice we were all pretty disappointed about how the game went. We had all played well, but it just seemed we weren’t getting the breaks we wanted, which can get frustrating. Thankfully Lisa (Derek’s mom) made us all treat bags and brought us cake for Derek’s birthday (Happy Belated Birthday, Derek!). How can you still be mad after eating a plate full of cake? We ate it quickly, though, because we still had to go back to the hotel and get ready for the banquet. The banquet was great! The hotel made these Swedish meatballs which were probably the best meatballs I have ever eaten! Almost every sponsor had a representative there, all of whom had their turn at the podium for a quick speech. We even got a shout-out from Curl Manitoba. At the end of the night we had guest speaker Arnold Asham share some of his experiences with us. Our next game was Saturday morning at 9 a.m. The ice makers had decided to paper the rocks a little bit the night before so we were starting to see some curl out of them, which was a great improvement and made for a more interesting game. We played really hard, with a few tough steals against us mid-game, and went into extra end. Unfortunately they got the better of us, and we dropped into the ‘C’ division with the 7-8 loss. We played again at 12:00 p.m. in a “do or die” situation. We played well, but we suffered a third loss, 5-2, which dropped us out of the competition. We were all pretty disappointed that we only got four games in, but our awesome coach, Helen, got us some practice time the next morning. We went out for supper, and then to finish the night we did the same ritual we developed when we first got together last spring: stay up later than we should and hang out together. This time we decided to watch a movie and just chill out in our rooms. The next morning we got up early once again for practice at the Brandon Curling Club. Three other games were going on, but the nice ice makers prepared one of the sheets so we could have some practice time. It was a really, really good practice and I took a lot from it. Our main focus was line and it helped me a lot. It had seemed in the last few games that I couldn’t multitask: I could either have awesome weight or awesome line, but not both. Helen ran through some simple yet challenging drills that I can use in my own practices. As it always does, the weekend ended, and we all had to go home. We loaded up the Jeep and headed back to Winnipeg. The plan was for everyone to go to Derek’s and wait for our flights, but Helen and I didn’t have enough time to go there and make it back to the airport in time, so we just said goodbye to the gang at the airport. It kind of gave me chills because when I gave Corryn a hug she said “I’ll see you in Innsbruck.” It’s crazy to think the next time we will be together we will be heading to Innsbruck, Austria for the Youth Olympic Games!  I will be there in less than 50 days! Even writing it now I have the biggest smile on my face and a sort of butterflies-in-my-stomach feel. To this day, only a month and a half away from the games, I still can’t believe that this is my life. I cannot believe that I, Emily Gray, from a little town on P.E.I., has come this far. My friends are constantly reminding me about how proud they are of me. Either that or they are trying to shut me up with all my crazy countdowns! Either way, Innsbruck, you better be ready: 50 days!