Teammates pay tribute

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

It still hurts.

Saskatchewan skip Sandra Schmirler succumbed to cancer in 2000 and those memories had already started flooding back for the three teammates and friends the gold-medallist left behind as the 2008 Scotties Tournament of Hearts approached here this week.

Third Jan Betker, second Joan McCusker and lead Marcia Gudereit are being saluted for the 10-year anniversary of becoming the first Canadian squad, male or female, to win an Olympic curling gold medal.

"Part of our memory is pain and part of our memory is grief and this week will bring back a whole bunch of that stuff," McCusker said on the eve of this year's tourney. "It does get easier with time but it never goes away and I don't want it to go away.

"She was a true friend and I miss her sense of humour ... There's been a hole in our lives for eight year ... We've lived very full lives, we've gone forth and multiplied to help raise new curlers. But there is a void that will never be filled. It's a big, big loss."

Although they spoke during a special ceremony on Friday, all three declined to speak at Friday's opening banquet for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

"It's going to bring all those memories back," said Gudereit. "There are times I can deal with it and times I can't. (Sandra's death) has left a big hole in our life."

And celebrating the gold will be mixed with regretting that premature passing.

"It's going to be bittersweet," Betker predicted before the tourney started. "It is very important that we will never forget what she did with us ... Sandra was such an ordinary person who touched so many people ... She was an ordinary gal who did something incredible."

Not only did Schmirler win Olympic gold, she captured a Canadian record three world championships. But she also left behind a husband, Shannon England, and two daughters, Sara and Jenna.

"Her daughters were her pride and joy," Gudereit said. "She would have traded all of those championships to be with her daughters.

"Her life was cut way too short . To me, the most important legacy she left was the type of person she was ... My favourite memory is just sitting around after a club game with the four of us together being able to laugh and joke with her. She had an incredible, self-deprecating sense of humour ... Time would just fly by."

Betker concurred.

"I remember the person she was and what she meant to us, and we had a lot of fun together," she said. "It's not so much what we won but what we experienced together."


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