If you’re going to try curling for the first time, you might as well do it with an Olympic gold medalist and a world champion. That’s exactly what a group of George Waters Middle School students did on Dec. 7.
The kids hit the ice at Deer Lodge Curling Club alongside Reid Carruthers and Mark Nichols, the second and lead on Jeff Stoughton’s world-class rink.
Carruthers showed off his gold medal from the 2011 world championships, while Nichols grabbed the kids’ attention with the gold medal he won at the 2006 Turin Olympics as Brad Gushue’s third.
Principal Andrew Mead, whose brother, Jon, plays third for Stoughton, organized the outing. He said having such accomplished curlers as teachers was a treat for the students.
"It makes it interesting right away," Mead said, "and gets them engaged."
Carruthers said the students — even those who may not watch much curling on TV — were well aware of what he and Nichols had done in the sport.
"Andy did a really good job letting them know who we were," said the St. Vital resident. "We brought our medals, and the kids really liked that. They were cheering and hooting and hollering before we started, so they were excited to meet us."
The hour-long clinic started with a quick warm-up. After that, the kids learned how to sweep, were shown the proper way to release an in-turn and an out-turn, and finally, how to slide out of the hack.
"After that it was straight into a game," said Carruthers, who’s been touring the province this season along with women’s champion Kaitlyn Lawes, offering clinics to children and adults. "We want the kids to get the chance to play a game, because we might actually get a couple curlers out of it."
Haven Nepinak said his first curling experience was a fun one, and that he’d definitely want to try it again.
"I was a little surprised," said the Grade 8 student from Brooklands. "The rink was a little bigger than I expected, and more slippery."
Classmate Joseph Bolo was most impressed by the caliber of coaching he received.
"We have Olympic curlers with us," he said. "They’re the best of the best."
Mead said he saw some smooth deliveries and strong sweeping on display.
"There’s a couple that picked it up pretty quickly," he said. "Curling’s not a sport these guys get to play much, so it’s a good opportunity for them."