Little place, big hopes

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

They say it's only logical that the team to represent the nation would come out of the biggest curling club in France.

They're from Saint-Pierre & Miquelon.

That part of France is about 20 kilometres off the shores of Newfoundland.

"France has 300 curlers. We are 50. Chamonix is next. They are 30. So we're the biggest curling club in all of France," said club president Patrick Boez.

Don't mistake curling club for being an actual building like the Thistle, where these World Senior Curling Championships are being held.

An actual curling club. It is their dream.

"This one? Ha ha. It would be too big," said Boez.

They get two hours of pebbled ice on Saturday and another two Sunday at the island skating rink.

Saint-Pierre & Miquelon is an interesting place with several claims to fame, none of which, until recently, have involved curling.

- James Cook mapped the island of Saint-Pierre during the summer of 1763. There have been 600 known shipwrecks off Saint-Pierre & Miquelon since then.

- The only time a guillotine was ever used in North America was there.

- The islands were baptized the Eleven Thousand Virgins in 1520.

TREMENDOUS PROSPERITY

Prohibition in the United States caused a period of tremendous prosperity and wealth. But now, this week, they are home to the France team in world seniors curling.

It is the only team here with its own media contingent.

Clair Arozamena is the TV/radio reporter for RKO of France with cameraman Stephane Bry, both born-and-raised natives of Saint-Pierre & Miquelon.

While the team is 0-4 after three days of play at the event, they are big news back home where the population is only 6,000.

They've come here as maybe the best-dressed team in the event.

They have autographed poster cards to pass out to the fans in the tradition started by the Ferbey Four.

They also have a rouge bleu et blanc curling pin in the shape of Saint-Pierre to exchange with the curlers that they play against.

HANDLES TRANSLATING

And they have a coach, from Montreal, to handle the translating. Only third Christophe Lehuenen speaks any English.

"On a clear day you can see the coast of Canada from France," says skip Maurice Arozamena. "We can see Newfoundland from Saint-Pierre."

But it's a whole different world. They're taking great delight explaining to Western Canadians that France is 20 km off our shores, that the money they spend is the Euro, that they have gendarmes and "all the things you see in France."

They consider themselves ambassadors.

"This," explains reporter Arozamena "is like a mission."

Any year now, they expect, a team is going to show up at the Ford World Curling Championships from Sainte-Pierre & Miquelon representing France.

"Our women were runners up this year and the men were third," said Lehuenen of the regular France championships.

The team, which also includes Cyril Bigneau and Pierre Perrin, didn't have to go over to the other side of the Atlantic part of France to qualify for this event.

ONE SENIOR TEAM IN FRANCE

"There's only one senior team in France over there, so we take turns. We were 6-3 in Scotland two years ago. We're not doing well here this year. But we're having fun and we're letting a lot of people know where is Saint-Pierre," said Lehuenen.

Curling came to Saint-Pierre in 1993.

"We get Canadian TV. We can watch the Brier," said coach Irene Gaudreau.

"We had someone see it and say 'That looks interesting' and suggest this might be a sport which would be good to play. He went to Montreal, to my club, and saw we had fun.

"He brought back what was needed to play and found out it was not so easy.

"That's when he called my club and asked for somebody to come to Saint-Pierre to teach it.

"That person turned out to be me.

"We now have an international mixed bonspiel every year.

"Guy Hemmings and his wife came to play in it last year.

It's a pretty good party on the Saturday night."


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