Living up to a Saskatchewan legend

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

She grew up worshipping at the knees of a rock legend.

Not only did Amber Holland learn a lot of ropes from the late Sandra Schmirler, the greatest female curler to ever throw a rock, but she became the first Saskatchewan skip to capture the Canadian crown since Schmirler last turned the trick back in 1997. And Holland won the Sandra Schmirler Playoff MVP Trophy to boot.

Schmirler went on to win her third world title in three trips in ’97. There have already been numerous comparisons to that legendary foursome, even before Holland flew to Esbjerg, Denmark — where competition in her first women’s world championship started Friday.

“I definitely looked up to Sandra for all of the things that she and her team accomplished,” Holland told the Regina Leader-Post. “She handled herself really well with the media and in everything else that went on in her life. She always handled everything with class, and so I certainly took a lesson from that.

“Their team was always something, regardless whether you were in a junior or women’s league, that you strived to be that good.”

Holland, however, knows she is not likely to ever measure up to Schmirler’s brilliant career, which included winning Canada’s only women’s Olympic gold medal to date. But winning the gold in Denmark would certainly help make her own splash in the curling world.

“There are expectations, but I don’t think we feel the pressure,” said Holland, who beat Team Canada’s four-time national champion Jennifer Jones in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final. “Especially now that we are representing Canada too, that you’re not only just going to go (to Denmark) but you’re going over there to do well and bring home the gold medal.”

Supported by third Tammy Schneider, second Kim Schneider (her sister) and Heather Kalenchuk, Holland will face some stiff competition in the Danish seaport. That includes Germany’s defending champion Andrea Schopp (who no longer has transplanted Canadian Melanie Robillard at third), two-time Olympic gold medallist Anette Norberg now skipping Cecilia Ostlund’s team and Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott, a two-time Olympic silver medallist. Other teams include China’s former world champion Bingyu Wang, USA’s Patti Lank and Norway’s Linn Githmark, who look like they wear pyjamas for games.

“It’s a different feel I think for us, but we’re pretty comfortable,” Holland was quoted on tsn.ca. “Over the last few years a lot of international teams have come to Canada to play. We’ve played a lot of them on the World Curling Tour.

“We know the environment is going to be different. We’re not naive enough to not know that. We’re going to make the best of the environment, throw the rocks and work the ice as best we can.”

Holland, 36, won a silver medal at the 1993 junior world championship and has skipped squads in two different Canadian Curling Trials, finishing fourth in 2009. She also spent a lot of time at the women’s world championship in Swift Current, Sask., last year, so she knows what the setup is like.

“I have played this game long enough to know that winning and losing are just a one-shot difference,” Holland said. “I’d like to think I’m pretty grounded.”

Other teams at the worlds are Scotland’s Anna Sloan, Russia’s Liudmila Privivkova, Denmark’s Lene Nielsen, Czech Republic’s Anna Kubeskova and Korea’s Ji-Sun Kim.

Despite the strange new stage, Kim Schneider believes Holland will help her team steady their nerves.

“Amber has been our leader throughout everything,” Schneider said. “She hasn’t been fazed by anything. She has handled everything that has been thrown in front of her and I think we have all benefited from that. She’s definitely the right person for this job.”

Just like Schmirler once was for her charges.

Women’s championship on TSN

Sat., March 19 — Canada vs. China, 3 a.m. (rebroadcast at 9:30 p.m., TSN2)

Sun., March 20 — Canada vs. Denmark, 9:30 p.m., TSN2

Mon., March 21 — Canada vs. Scotland, 3 a.m., TSN

Tues., March 22 — Canada vs. U.S. at 1 p.m., TSN

Wed., March 23 — Canada vs. Switzerland, 8 a.m., TSN (re-broadcast at 7 p.m., TSN2)

Thurs., March 24 — Canada vs. Germany, 8 a.m., TSN

Fri., March. 25 — Page Playoff (1 vs. 2), 1 p.m., TSN

Sat., March 26 — Page Playoff (3 vs. 4), 4 a.m., TSN, Semifinal, 9 a.m., TSN (re-broadcast, TSN2, 7 p.m.)

Sun., March 27 — Final, 8 a.m., TSN (re-broadcast, TSN2 at 7 p.m.)

— Source: tsn.ca


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