March 16, 2012
Canuck steps in for injured German skip
By CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. - Call it a case of unusual timing.
Canadian-born Melanie Robillard was officially confirmed as skip of the German team Friday, the day before the start of the women's world curling championship.
Robillard's sudden rise to prominence came as a response to some unusual circumstances.
Andrea Schoepp, who had been scheduled to skip Germany in a record 19th world championship appearance, broke her leg in what at first had been termed a training accident last Saturday.
Turns out Schoepp's training regimen reached far beyond the curling rink. Last Saturday, Schoepp's preparation for the world curling championship included a visit to a local ski hill.
That's when she fractured her tibia and ruptured knee ligaments. The scramble has been on for a week to cobble together a lineup for this week's event.
"I couldn't believe it when I first heard about it," said Robillard. "I thought I misunderstood at first. I had to get them to repeat it a couple of times.
"It is like riding a bike. I hope that bike stays upright."
Since Robillard played on the team that won the 2010 world title, the call was put in to her. Robillard had been working as an office manager for a hedge fund in Madrid but agreed to return to the team for this event.
After helping Germany win the worlds two years ago, Robillard followed her heart to Spain, where her boyfriend curls for the national team.
"It's been a pretty eventful week," said Robillard who moved to Europe 10 years ago after growing up in Ottawa. "I had to somehow convince by bosses to let me go and I actually found out Monday morning I could go."
Robillard arrived here Wednesday with the German team. That's when the rest of the team pitched the idea to her and gave her a couple of days to think about it.
"There's situations where you've gotta do what you've gotta do and this is one of them," said Robillard. "It was a situation I was put in and I have to do what I can do to make it work."
Robillard has been coaching teams in Spain and has thrown rocks in a couple of fun spiels since January.
"The reason they called me is because they wanted to be comfortable with the lineup," said Robillard.
In a tumultuous situation like this, expectations have taken a different turn,
"This is going to be a challenge for the whole team," said Robillard. "I don't think it's good to put up goals that the team can't handle. We'll try to do our best."
In the lead-up to the 2014 Olympics, there's more than wins and losses at stake here.
"Obviously we don't want to finish last," said Robillard. "We're just going to try and stay calm because the last thing we want to do is make everybody nervous because it's been a tough, tough week."
Robillard's been through Olympics and world championships before and will draw on those experiences to get her through this week.
"Actually, it will help me get through this," said Robillard. "It's good that I've been through that. Coming back to Canada, I love it here. It's everybody's dream to win a world championship."
The German federation also had to scramble to find a new coach. Men's coach Martin Beisel has taken over from Schoepp's brother Rainer.
"We had to be very flexible," said Beisel, who's familiar with the young lineup due to his work as Germany's national junior coach. "I was supposed to be in Hamburg with the men's team.
"We're happy to have Melanie here with us. That's the best way because she's played already with the girls, so we don't have to mix things up much.
"Let's say it was a very interesting week."