Whether it’s a teeny tiny arena in a small European, American, Canadian or Asian city, or a big hockey rink converted to four sheets of ice for the Tim Hortons Brier or Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Sharon Morrison leaves her mark in the sport of curling.
The Vernon coach, sport instructor and on- and off-ice official, who has worked the sport in 15 countries around the globe, was named the winner of the Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards’ Leadership in Sports honour Friday, June 17, in a ceremony at Spirit Square outside Vernon City Hall.
Awards committee member Ann Holmes presented Morrison with the trophy and keeper plaque.
“I’ve been very lucky, this is a great sport,” said Morrison, accompanied by her husband, Neil.
Morrison’s voice cracked with emotion when talking about the woman she called “my favourite curler of all-time,” Spallumcheen wheelchair Paralympian Ina Forrest, who was named the winner of the Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athlete of the Year honour minutes earlier.
Morrison has been Forrest’s coach since the day she took up wheelchair curling 18 years ago.
“Curling is already a difficult sport. If you’re sitting in a wheelchair, it’s even harder,” said Morrison. “They throw a stone down the ice from a seated position at least 93 feet to the target. To be able to do that without sweeping is a tremendous achievement.”
Forrest helped Canada win a bronze medal at the 2022 Paralympics in Beijing, her fourth Paralympics medal in as many Games (Gold, Vancouver 2010 and Sochi, Russia, 2014; bronze, PyeongChang, South Korea, 2018). She was named Canada’s co-flag bearer for the Games’ opening ceremonies.
She has competed at 12 straight wheelchair curling world championships (starting in 2007), which includes three world titles and a silver medal.
“This award makes me reflect on all of the support I’ve had over the years,” said Forrest, accompanied by her husband, Curtis. “From my family, from my longtime coach Sharon, who’s been with me the whole time, all the teammates, coaches and support staff. We win and lose as a team, and it’s always teamwork that makes us get ahead.
“Thank you to all my friends here, the Vernon Curling Club, all the curlers in the club, and thank you so much to the awards committee for recognizing our sport.”
Forrest, recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, is one of the world’s most decorated wheelchair curlers. She was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame at a banquet during Brier week in Ottawa in February 2016.
Completing a women’s sweep of the three awards was the Seaton Sonics senior girl’s volleyball squad, who was named Tim Hortons North Okanagan Team of the Year.
The Okanagan Valley champion Sonics won the silver medal at the B.C. High School senior girls AAA championships in Vancouver, falling in the best-of-five final to the No. 1-ranked Mt. Douglas Rams of Victoria, 3-2.
It was a provincial tournament the Sonics almost didn’t attend.
All the highways to the Lower Mainland in November of 2021 were closed due to severe flooding. A last-minute fundraiser and decision to fly to the provincials helped the Sonics get to Vancouver, where they went 2-0 in their preliminary round pool. The team dropped only one game prior to the championship match.
Seaton began the playoff round with a 3-0 win over the Byrne Creek Bulldogs of Burnaby, setting up a quarterfinal date with the McMath Wildcats of Richmond. Seaton won 3-0.
In the final four, the Sonics took on Vancouver’s Little Flower Academy Angels and won in five games to advance to the final.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Seaton head coach Troy Lorenson to the Morning Star after the tournament. “This was a true ‘team’ in every sense of the word. Despite falling a few points short of winning the provincial title, most probably didn’t anticipate how far the team would go.”
Lorenson was on-hand Friday to accept the award along with five of his players, including provincial second-team all-star selection Novah Gardner.
“This award means a lot,” said Gardner, who graduates in 2022. “I played volleyball for Seaton for five years. To win this award in my final year means so much to me, and to all of us here.”
The team award was presented by awards committee chairperson Jack Gilroy.