Centre is long overdue

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The Manitoba Curling Association has finally slid into the 21st century.

Concerned about the province's pathetic showing at too many national events in recent seasons, the MCA has introduced a high performance centre at the Granite Curling Club where elite curlers' skills can be developed to a higher level.

After all, Manitoba teams finished with 3-8 records at each of the last two national men's championships and Manitoba women have not won the Canadian crown since 1995 (Connie Laliberte).

NEXT STEP

"What we've noticed over the last number of years is that Manitoba's results have not been what we've grown accustomed to -- and we are very proud to think that Manitoba is the centre of curling in this country," MCA executive director Ian Staniloff said during a press conference to pump the centre yesterday. "The model was taken after seeing the results in Atlantic Canada over the last number of years. They set up a high performance there about five years ago. As a result, they've developed all these all these championship teams (Colleen Jones, Mark Dacey, Brad Gushue, Suzanne Gaudet). It seemed the next step in the progression of developing curling in this province. It's a very obvious step for us, and having somebody like Connie (Laliberte) makes it all that much better."

Laliberte is the manager of the centre that has been up and running since the start of the season.

"It's a centre that provides services to elite and aspiring curlers and coaches -- services such as mental training, sports psychologists, nutrition, fitness and conditioning, as well as exercise physiology," said Laliberte, whose team was into most of those when she was at the height of her illustrious career. "Those are areas that the curlers really don't think about too much and it's an area that can bring them to the next level.

"It's definitely with the Olympics in mind. The other provinces have been doing this and our past performances at the nationals haven't been that great. So what we're trying to do is fix that and be one of the top-three, if not the top (at the nationals)."

$400 MEMBERSHIP FEE

Former world champions Jeff Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk and David Hamblin (junior), as well as such ex-Manitoba titlists Jennifer Jones, Barb Spencer and Janet Harvey were among the first 15 to pay their $400 to join (membership is limited). Such juniors as reigning provincial champion Daley Peters and Chelsea Carey are also members.

"The high performance centre's been great for our team," Spencer said. "It's helped us both on and off the ice. We've been to some of the sessions and we're getting a lot of help from sports psychologists and nutritionists and it's just really helping with the communication on our team.

"This now puts Manitoba at the same level as other provinces that have been doing this for years, and this is maybe a reason why we haven't been doing as well in the past as we should have been doing."


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