A trip to the cold and wintery land of Winnipeg paid off for a new blind curling team from a mid-Island town, taking home the second spot in the western championships.
According to coach Bruce Laurie, the team started in November and now consists of six athletes of varying degrees of sight, from individuals who can only see out of one eye, to individuals with only 10 per cent of their vision.
The sport is played with stick curling, which involves the players using a stick on the rock and being guided by light to communicate how they need to push the rock.
“It’s all physics just like curling is, so a blind person can do it just as well as sighted if they have a good directional sense and they can get the rock down,” said Laurie.
With Laurie’s lead, the team made it to West Coast Blind Curling Provincials in January, finishing third behind Prince George and Vancouver.
Usually, the top two teams from this event make it to the championship. However, teams in Saskatchewan folded during the COVID-19 pandemic and Campbell River able to come and play instead, claiming an incredible result.
“We beat all the B.C. teams,” said Laurie. “It was just Alberta, that was the one that we didn’t [beat]. It was our very first game out on the ice.”
Despite this, only three points separated the top three in the finals with the Edmonton team taking first, Campbell River second and Prince George taking home third place.
Laurie describes the feeling as like none other, watching his team get the result after starting around five months ago.
“It’s just really rewarding to see the blind people having a chance to do things in the community with regular people doing regular things and activities,” said Laurie.
“For the six of us to travel, fly all the way to Winnipeg, stay in a hotel, go out for meals and meet a whole bunch of other curlers who are blind also and mix and mingle it’s just such a wonderful experience for them.”
The competition marks the last one for the year as the curling season wraps up. The team will be returning to competition for next year.
To make it to nationals, Laurie says they require one member on the team to be fully blind.
Laurie adds they are looking for young people to help with the curling club and more information can be found on their website.