December 7, 2009
Oly curlers roar before the Roar
By GEORGE KARRYS, FOR SUN MEDIA
Oh, the stories they told.
The Olympians arrived Friday at the Roar of the Rings, each and every team from Nagano 1998, Salt Lake 2002 and Turin 2006 invited by the Canadian Curling Association to celebrate the fourth "official" Olympic Trials.
Kelley Law, bronze in 2002: "Oh wow, you found one of those!"
Law had been approached by a fan clutching a pack of gum with her image on it, part of a multi-athlete 2010 promotion. "They wanted to use a photo from 2002, but I asked for a new one," the Vancouver supermom said, grinning. "It's nice to be involved in Olympic stuff years later."
The surviving members of Team Sandra Schmirler arrived midway through dinner, held up by blizzards and a confused VIP transport driver. They promptly took their seats with Team Mike Harris and began joking and taunting as if the sun was still setting in the very far east, in Nagano, Japan, some 12 years earlier.
Richard Hart also was missing from that table, but he was just a bun-toss away from his old Harris mates, sitting with current squad Team Glenn Howard. As one of only four of the Roar's 80 competitors who has bitten into an Olympic medal with a previous team, Hart later looked out of place on stage, basking in the ovations while wearing the ultramodern, form-fitting jersey of today's curling athlete.
"I can't fit into that anymore," Hart said, pointing at Harris' 1998 Olympic blazer. "It's huge on me. It's like I'm wearing a tent."
Times have indeed changed. And get this: Some of these curling athletes are partially funded by your tax dollars.
Got your attention now, eh?
"It's an honour to bring curling's Olympians home for the Roar of the Rings," Canadian Curling Association event guru Warren Hansen said.
"After the banquet, they attended opening night at the Keith's Patch, they were honoured at the opening ceremonies and they did an up close and personal interactive session with the fans.
"We've kept them busy, but it looks like they're enjoying themselves."
The Olympians also took part in the first throwing of no less than four simultaneous ceremonial first stones.
Don Bartlett, Kevin Martin's lead from 2002, cracked up the Rexall Centre by first taking a practice slide, and then throwing a screaming takeout down the ice. He left his local junior curlers in the dust, looking shocked.
Harris held the broom for 2006 Gushue skip Russ Howard, but his stone curled only a foot.
"There's a run on sheet A," declared Howard, now a TSN commentator. "Yep, you threw that perfect," quipped Harris, now a CBC commentator.
"This is pretty cool," said Hart, as he posed for a photo with his former Toronto teammates.
"This is the first time the CCA has really celebrated with their Olympic history. There really aren't that many of us around. Hopefully they'll do this again four years from now."
George Karrys, an Olympian, is: curlinguru.com