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The Youth Olympic Games team had the opportunity to meet Team Koe at the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup. (Photo, Curling Canada/Helen Radford)

The Youth Olympic Games team had the opportunity to meet Team Koe at the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup. (Photo, Curling Canada/Helen Radford)

Youth Olympic Games Adventure: Singing songs and meeting our curling idols

Our next trip as a team was to Edmonton and Leduc, Alta., to train during the NextGen Mixed Doubles competition and be at the 2019 Home Hardware Canada Cup to see and meet some of our curling idols.

But we found out the power of weather on air travel during this meet up. There was a massive snowstorm in Sudbury, Ont., and my teammate Lauren Rajala – along with Kira Brunton (of the NextGen Mixed Doubles event) drove to Toronto so they could fly into Edmonton on Wednesday night.

I arrived in Edmonton and NextGen coach Scott Pfeifer picked up reigning world junior champion (and previous Youth Olympian) Tyler Tardi, Dezaray Hawes and myself. I met up with teammates Emily Deschenes and Nathan Young at our hotel in Edmonton, along with our women’s alternate Chantel Hoag (Gravelbourg, Sask.).

We went to Leduc to watch Draw 3 of the Home Hardware Canada Cup and what stood out most to me was the communication between the teams (line, weight, etc.) that was going on between the teams as they tried to get the most out of their rocks. Halfway through the game, Lauren arrived after her very eventful travel day.

Thursday, we got up nice and early and drove to the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton to practice the on-ice elements of curling. Halfway through the day we got off the ice and talked to our mental trainer Dr. Beth McCharles as we are now only one month away from the event. Later in the day we played a game against Team Zach Davies who curls out of the Saville Community Sports Centre. During that game we learned so much about each other and what each of our teammates wants from us during games.

Friday was probably the weirdest day of all. We started with on-ice training in Edmonton and focused on our slides and sweeping technique before taking a break for lunch. On the way back to the rink a very interesting song was on the radio and our coach Helen Radford turned it up. The song was Mary Had a Baby by Bruce Cockburn, which had a very catchy beat, some funky lyrics and a cowbell. We decided we could adapt it and make it our new official team song!

During our next next on-ice session we had a draw to the button competition where the winner didn’t have to write the song – instead the song would be about them. Ultimately, Emily was the winner, meaning Nathan, Lauren, Chantel and myself would write the song about her and perform it. After some practising, we were told we were performing the song right in front of the Leduc Curling Club on an elevated platform.

Our song that went like this:

Em is a curler (she is)
She drew the button (Yes she did)
She threw the double (she did)
The sweepers keep sweeping and the rocks are gone
Where does she come (Greely)
Where is that anyway (Ontario)
Where is Ontario (Canada)
She has her own commercial and it’s the bomb.
She made Team Canada (she did)
She going to go to Switzerland (Yes she is)
She’s a great teammate (she is)
Were really lucky and that’s our song

It’s true that Emily is a TV star. Her story was featured in a Curling Canada commercial to support youth curling across the country and it’s cool to know she’s one step closer to her goal to representing Canada at the Olympic Winter Games by being part of the Youth Olympic Games team.

Watch her commercial here:

After that we were waiting to throw some rocks on the arena ice at the Home Hardware Canada Cup. While waiting, we met Jeff Stoughton, who is my favourite curler of all time and my idol. When the arena ice was done we threw a couple stones on the ice. It was amazing condition with so much curl and great speed. The first couple rocks you really noticed how positive of a release you needed to prevent the rock from over curling.

The Youth Olympic Games team also met TSN’s voice of curling, Vic Rauter. (Photo, Curling Canada)

The next day we were back on the arena ice and played a game against Chantel, 2019 U SPORTS curling champions Cameron Goodkey and Kira Brunton and national junior champions Erin Pincott and Kristen Streifel. In this game we focused on managing stones on arena ice because it’s certainly different from your regular curling club ice.

Later in the day we had the privilege to meet the teams who went to the 2018 Winter Olympics for Canada: Team Kevin Koe and Team Rachel Homan. Both teams were super nice and supportive of what we are getting ready to do and play for. After our session we were walking to get ready to watch the women’s semifinal, but we ran into one of Canada’s most recognizable TV voices, Vic Rauter and for me that probably was one of my highlights of the weekend.

On our last day together we threw more rocks on the arena ice, which never got old. We also had the chance to talk again with 2016 Youth Olympic Games athletes about what was coming up and what to expect. We also met three-time Brier champion Nolan Thiessen and he chatted to us about what its like to have the Maple Leaf on our backs and the everything about a world event. 

Sadly, we parted ways and said goodbye to each other once again. This was a trip I will remember forever and I can’t believe next time we see each other in Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport it will be to head over to Switzerland to compete in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games!    

Curling Canada