Olympics can showcase curling: Morris

Canadian curler hopes Games helps sport reach out to youth

By JOE PAVIA, QMI Agency

Living in Alberta may have given John Morris his most prominent curling laurels, but growing up in Ottawa gave him the fundamentals to excel in the sport.

And now he’s got the chance to excel at the highest level — as the third on the high-flying Kevin Martin team, which will be a favourite for the men’s curling gold medal at the Olympics.

“When you’re old and grey one day and talking to your grandkids and showing them a medal you won at the Olympics, there’s nothing that would be more special than that,” says Morris.

Morris sees the Games as an opportunity to showcase sport to a younger demographic — just as it did to him.

The 31-year-old Morris says his two favourite Olympic memories are the triumph of the 2002 Canadian men’s hockey team, and the late Sandra Schmirler curling to gold in 1998.

Says Morris: “I think one difference with these Olympics in Vancouver than in the past … we’re going to have a better chance than we ever have of winning Olympic medals, and it’s going to be pretty cool to challenge for the top spot of the medal standings come the end of the Vancouver Games.”

Morris’ first high-profile rocks crown came in 1997 when he represented the Ottawa Curling Club as the runner-up at the Canadian juniors.

The runner-up status motivated him to win national junior and world junior titles in 1998 and 1999. In those years, Morris’ rink was the Team of the Year at the ACT Sportsmen’s dinner.

His 2003 move to Alberta, where he teamed up with Martin, garnered him more titles as a Brier (2008 and 2009) and world champ (2008).

But Ottawa was where he began his journey to the Winter Games.

While living in Gloucester, Morris attended Elmridge Catholic School (now Brother Andre Catholic School), Lester B. Pearson middle school, followed by stints at both Gloucester and Colonel By high schools.

At Colonel By, he starred on the volleyball squad as well as playing minor soccer, house league hockey and skiing.

Jr. Little League title

The multi-sport athlete excelled in competitive baseball and varsity ball. At 13, in 1991, he helped his Gloucester A’s capture the Ontario Junior Little League championship.

During his younger years, he worked for Ottawa’s Parks and Recreation department.

His curling career began in the RCMP Curling Club’s Little Rocks program when he was five. At 12, Morris moved to the RCN Curling Club at Dow’s Lake. At 16, he switched to the Ottawa Curling Club.

Even as a youngster, Morris believed life was to be lived. During a family ski holiday at Mont Ste. Saveur, the 12- year-old figured the only way to best his two older sisters, both accomplished skiers, was to zoom down the hill. The ski patrol found him after his wipeout and brought him to the Morris chalet, bloodied and bruised, but okay.

With their family cottage 25 km from Buckingham, Morris cultivated an interest in fishing, canoeing and karaoke. Come Feb. 27, this Ottawa native could be singing the glory of a gold medal.

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