With top national curlers in town, some Vernon students were treated to a visit from the rulers of the rink.
The reigning Canadian men’s champions rolled into Okanagan Landing Elementary School Friday to share their love of the sport with students, prior to playing in the Prestige Hotels and Resorts Curling Classic at the Vernon Curling Club.
Most of the intermediate classes have been taking lessons at the Vernon Curling Club, and those that haven’t are now primed to hit the ice.
“I want to go ice curling,” said Kyan Chippendale, who is in Grade 4.
“Ice curling looks fun.”
In fact, most of the top champs weren’t much older, some even younger, when their curling passions were ignited.
Lead Nolan Thiessen, skip Pat Simmons, third John Morris and second Carter Rycroft were between five and 12 years old when they first took to the ice.
“Back when I started curling, we won Nintendo’s, that’s how I got hooked on curling,” said Morris, who is also a Vancouver 2010 Olympic gold medalist.
“This is the perfect age for you guys to get into it,” said Morris, who is a professional firefighter. “People have made the Olympics in curling starting when they were five and right up to when they were 20.”
Thiessen didn’t start curling until he was 12 and didn’t get serious about the sport until he was about 20.
“I started out playing hockey. I was a baseball player though and hockey was something to do in the winter,” said Thiessen, who switched ice surfaces and has stuck with it.
“It’s pretty cool as now we get to travel the world and see a lot of cool places,” said Thiessen, who is a Certified Professional Accountant.
The team is hoping to make it to Korea for the 2018 Olympics.
Although they are the champions of their sport, one student asked if they still get nervous.
“Absolutely, I definitely still get nervous before a big game. Not puking nervous but I definitely feel butterflies,” said Simmons, a chiropracter.
Rycroft, who owns his own trucking company in Edmonton, admitted that he used to get really nervous, to the point where his stomach hurt, but over time he has gotten used to the pressure.
Thiessen sympathized: “We’ve wanted to go to these (big games) since we were 10 years old so we all still get a little nervous.”
Even local ice maker Dave Merklinger, who is being flown to Ottawa to do the ice at the Brier, admitted he still has butterflies.
“I get really nervous when I’m making ice for these guys,” said Merklinger.
The team was excited to be in Vernon for the classic, even picking up some local apples to snack on over the weekend as they camped outside the curling club in an RV.
The Curling Classic continues today and Monday.