Youth Olympic Dreams: The Journey So Far

Editor’s Note: Prince Edward Island curler Emily Gray will be leaving for Austria in less than two weeks to compete for Canada at the first-ever Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck. Since July, she’s been writing about her experiences training with her Team Canada teammates Derek Oryniak, Corryn Brown and Thomas Scoffin. Today, Emily reflects on the journey so far.

Emily Gray takes a break from training to help out at a local kids' curling program (Photo courtesy E. Gray)

1. Physical training: since you’ve started training for the team, how have your fitness/curling skills improved? Fitness-wise, I am on one of the best programs.   Bob Comartin (Strength and Conditioning Specialist for the CCA) set me up with awesome workouts and I am in the best shape of my life! (I’m still young though!).  Curling-wise, I have been working with some of the best high performance coaches in Canada and they have all helped me so much with the littlest things. 2. Highlights from Whitecap? Whitecap is something I look forward to every year!  Being in Atlantic Canada I know almost all the campers, and with it being my third year I know a lot of the returning campers.  My highlights were probably the cheer and the great shootout.  Seeing all my friends again was pretty awesome, but having the Youth Olympics team see

Whitecap cheer (Photo courtesy E. Gray)

my side of the country and all my friends was pretty cool.  I think my teammates really came out of their ‘western shells’ during the cheer! 3. Highlights from the Ottawa Junior Superspiel? In Ottawa, my family got to meet the team for the first time.  It was really great having them meet the team and see us play.  Two of the highlights from that weekend were running around Parliament Hill in the freezing cold pitch black with my family, and winning ‘the pants’ in the consolation final with my team.  It was a great weekend and we got absolutely everything we could out of that weekend.  Whatever could happen in competition, happened.  We played the most games you could, ended up playing three games in one day, we were in a ‘sudden death’ scenario for our last three or four games, the rest of the team missed their flights and had to reschedule and we had to play in three different rinks.  We also had a lot of people come and watch us who we were not used to seeing, so we got absolutely everything out of that weekend that we could. It was absolutely ideal! We also were interviewed for a video. And getting all of our Balance Plus gear was awesome!

Emily and Corryn model "The Pants" in Brandon (Photo courtesy E. Gray)

4. Highlights from the Brandon Junior spiel? Brandon was definitely fun.  Even though we didn’t get as many games as we would have liked out of the weekend, it was still a great experience.  When we arrived, our Canada LoudMouth pants were waiting in Helen’s room so that was pretty awesome.  We all played really well, but we just didn’t have luck on our side.  Even though the weekend didn’t turn out as planned, we had a great practice on Sunday morning before we headed back to Winnipeg.  Helen showed us a lot of little drills that we can do at home, a lot to do with line, and I use them at every practice now. 5. Who has helped your team along the way? The Canadian Curling Association has just been absolutely amazing to our team.  They provided funding covered our travel and provided us with the top-notch resources, so we have really learned a lot through these last nine months. Helen (Helen Radford, CCA National Junior Coach) has helped us through all the ups and downs of becoming a team and she is always there to talk to. Performance-wise, Helen has provided us with an environment where we can grow as athletes and become the best we can be for Innsbruck.  I think I speak for the whole team when I say I cannot thank Helen enough for all that she has done for us in the last nine months. Personally, my family has been there for me every step of the way.  I know it was hard for my mom to say good-bye to me on my first flight to Regina, but after this is all over she’ll probably be wanting to send me on a plane to anywhere, she’ll be so sick of me being home all the time!  My friends are all very supportive as well. I know they are probably sick and tired of my countdowns, but I know they are all very proud of me and of what I have accomplished.  I am constantly reminding them of how much I want gold, and I don’t think they realize how real this goal is becoming to me! All in all, everybody who has encountered us through our Youth Olympics journey has been great!  Thank you all! 6. Looking ahead: what do you still have to do to get ready for Innsbruck? I haven’t started packing yet: have to make ‘the list’!  I am still training hard and will be right up until I leave.  Of course, I will need to do a bit of shopping, too. 7. Any other thoughts about your Youth Olympics Team journey so far? This experience has been absolutely unbelievable.  I have met so many people along the way, and my teammates are the best.  I don’t think I could ask for three greater people who I can call my team.  I know it’s going to be a sad day when I have to say good-bye to them, but I know that we’ll see each other sometime again along the way.  The whole journey has just been surreal and I still can’t believe that this is me, I am doing this. But it will all be coming true in two weeks! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! (The 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games take place in Innsbruck, Austria, from January 13-22, 2012)

Team Canada with coach Helen Radford. Left to right, skip Thomas Scoffin, third Corryn Brown, lead Emily Gray, second Derek Oryniak (Photo courtesy H. Radford)