English commands keep curling clean

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

Curling has to be conducted in English, Quebec skip Eve Belisle insists, otherwise the dialogue might sound like a blue movie.

The Quebec rink is one of the more colourful at the Tournament of Hearts, with Belisle one of the more outspoken shooters -- in both French and English.

That's the thing about the combined Longue-Pointe and Lachine Curling Club rink. They compete in bilingual terms.

It's almost a perfect confluence of the two solitudes. Other than the player releasing the rock, either language holds sway. There's no order.

Once the rock is underway, the sweepers punctuate its path with excited commentary in no particular order of language. Belisle, Pamela Nugent, Martine Comeau and Saskia Hollands are fluent in both official languages.

So, why the ubiquitous "Hurry, hurry . . . hard, hard" rather than something such as "vite, vite . . . plus fort, plus fort" from the one throwing the rock?

Because, offered Belisle with linguistic collegiality, curling had its roots in English -- so the barking of orders to the sweepers is traditional.

Moreover, she has heard curlers from France.

"It was 'Allez, allez, allez' and 'Oui, oui, oui,' " she recalled after her rink's 10-8 roller-coaster loss to Alberta yesterday. "It sounded like a porn movie," she laughed.

Nugent, the baby of the Quebec team at 24, two years younger than the rest, smiled at the unique bilingual nature of her rink.

"My background is English and the rest of the team is more French," the private school teacher said. "Yeah, we get a bit of franglais going when we're out there. If I'm stressed, I speak more English -- and if they're more stressed, they speak more French. But we always understand each other."

They switch back and forth without really thinking about it, Belisle said. There is never a problem communicating despite the ad lib language mix.

The pony-tailed quartet, with coach Dan Rafael and fifth player Marie-France Larouche watching with field glasses, got in and out of trouble against Alberta. Each rink pounced on the other's mistakes.

Far above them and the more senior fans in the John Labatt Centre sat their respective cheering sections -- school kids from the Thames Valley system in the upper deck brought in to cheer adopted teams. They saw a crowd-pleaser, if not a curling masterpiece.

Quebec rallied with a three-point seventh end to tie the game 5-5 and Alberta matched it in the eighth.

Going into the ninth, the Alberta rink put their heads together in prayer-like mode but it didn't work immediately. Quebec erased the lead in the ninth to pull even before the Albertans pulled it out in the tenth.

"The girls played well; I thought we were in control of the game, but then we let it slip one end with some misses," Alberta skip Cathy King said.

Quebec skip Belisle's language did not contain swear words in any language but might have. She felt her squad benefited from Alberta miscues but made more than enough of its own to lose.

"There's not much margin for error," the computer programmer said.

Nugent's vocabulary included some self- recrimination.

"We have a valiant comeback but me missed a bit too much to come out on top this time," the English and physical education teacher said. "I made some costly misses."

At an event where plenty of sponsor (Scott) tissues are available, none was needed for any tears. Besides, people such as Nugent have a sense of proportion sharpened outside icebox billiards.

She teaches curling to mentally handicapped youngsters. She works with them every week and says they enjoy it immensely.

She wonders how they're doing without her.

That's an international language.


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