Brier fever strikes Russell

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Marian Cochrane has got her new shoes.

She modelled them yesterday in the teachers\' lounge at Russell Public School at a nice little reception following a rousing sendoff by the school\'s students for Marian\'s son, Bryan.

Bryan Chochrane and his rinkmates -- third Bill Gamble, second Ian MacAulay, lead John Steski and fifth Doug Johnston -- are off tomorrow for Halifax where they will represent Ontario at the Nokia Brier.

Marian and family friend Eileen Hamelin will follow them down Saturday.

\"I\'ve waited for this for a long time. I don\'t know how many rocks I\'ve watched,\" said Marian. \"We\'ll be there in time for the first game and, we hope, for the last one.\"

Marian needs the new shoes because she can\'t sit still when her son is competing.

\"I have to walk around the arena. It\'s what I do,\" she said. \"I have to get up and walk around. I had to sit in my place (at the Ontario playdowns) because Ian MacAuley\'s wife wouldn\'t let me get up.\"

Hamelin used to babysit Bryan Cochrane. Now he\'s the principal at Russell Public (and Russell Middle School) where Hamelin works as a teacher\'s assistant.

\"I\'m taking a week off -- without pay. Make sure you mention that,\" said Hamelin. \"I used to babysit him and now he\'s my principal. We\'re all just one big happy family.\"

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

If well wishes and community spirit count for anything, the Cochrane rink is well on its way. The kids at Russell Public School filled the gymnasium with energy.

It\'s hard to find an open space on a wall in the school. Signs and posters of support are all over the place. \"We are proud of you, Mr. Cochrane. Ontario\'s Finest,\" said one poster in the school\'s trophy case inside the main door with a silver whistle, Cochrane\'s trademark, hanging beside it.

The Cochrane rink was piped into the jam-packed gym by Gilbert Young, a former principal himself who hired Cochrane to work at Rockland Public School.

After introductions by vice-principal Susan Hards, the Cochrane rink was presented with a school banner by Kaitlyn Ruiter and Matthew Morgan.

\"The school thinks you\'re a great leader and an excellent role model,\" said David Dykstra, the prime minister of the student council.

The Kindergarten Class B kids set a high standard for all those who followed with their cheers and expressions of support.

\"Everybody has been so positive we were going to win and I really think that support helped us to win (the provincials),\" said Cochrane. \"The support has made this a special time. It\'s a special event. Hopefully in 20 years we\'ll be able to look back on this with fond memories.\"

The Cochrane rink will fly out tomorrow morning to Halifax. There\'s a welcoming party tomorrow night and the Hotshots skills competition Friday. They get down to business Saturday.

Each of the members of the rink have been practising on his own. Cochrane has been at the Russell Curling Club, whose membership presented all the members of the rink with personalized scarves for the trip.

\"We\'re just trying to keep things together,\" said Cochrane. \"We\'ve been discussing strategy. I think we are going to try and keep it as simple as possible.\"

Johnston is going to concentrate on scouting the opposition.

\"That\'s the advantage of having a fifth around,\" said Cochrane. \"He can look at the strengths and weaknesses of the other teams and help us with strategy. We\'re looking for any edge we can get.\"

VOICE FINE FOR NOW

Cochrane\'s voice was fine and strong yesterday, but that will likely change over the next 10 days. His chronic problem with growths on his vocal chords means he often loses his voice by the end of a bonspiel, but he has been given permission by the Canadian Curling Association to use his whistle to direct his sweepers at the Brier.

A $2.99 whistle allowed him to continue skipping and has brought him to the cusp of a national title.

Not a bad investment.

There was a school full of kids yesterday who would agree.


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