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Curling umpire gets Olympic assignment

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When Dave Petursson decided in 1979 to dip his toes into the uncharted water of curling officiating, he had no idea what the future held.

He certainly didn’t think he’d travel from coast to coast — and across the world — over a 35-year career that would include countless major events.

"There was no umpiring back then," recalled the Charleswood resident, who was involved in the coaching side of the sport at the time (and still is to a lesser extent). "It was one of a number of changes at the 1980 Brier. It was the honour system until then. There was an umpire of sorts, but he was some good old boy sitting in the bar who got called down if they needed him."

Since that 1980 pilot event, Petursson has worked 25 Briers, including some as chief umpire. He’s worked at every major Canadian championship, several world championships, the 1988 Calgary Olympics — where curling was a demonstration sport — and has already been assigned to next winter’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

"It’s going to be quite interesting to see how it is as a full medal sport, compared to 1988," Petursson says. "From a curling perspective the Olympics is the peak of the pyramid."

Petursson says officiating at an Olympics has a different feel than a typical curling event, and he’s hopeful that he’ll have a chance to watch some other sports while in Sochi.

Next winter won’t be Petursson’s first visit to the Olympic venue. He was in Sochi last month to umpire at the World Junior Curling Championships. Soon after returning, Petursson was back on the road to Victoria, where he was the deputy chief umpire at the World Men’s Curling Championship.

"The travel is nice," he says, "but working a number of events in different parts of Canada you tend to just see the inside of your hotel, the car and the arena, and not a lot else."

What’s kept Petursson involved with the sport for so long? The list is long.

"I love contributing back to the game I love," he said. "A lot of it is the people. You meet a lot of good people doing this. And I also believe I do a darn good job at it."

It isn’t often that you see a controversy involving the rules at a major curling event, but Petursson says that’s partly because umpires are so good at what they do.

"Many times we will step in very quietly and help manage a situation," he said. "We try to diffuse and resolve it without it becoming a major event."

And are curlers as honourable and honest as most fans assume?

"It takes all types," he said. "The majority of the players are very truthful and forthright, but the question is a chicken and egg situation. Are they that way because of the active umpiring?"

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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