The last thing on Jean Ross’s mind after she had a stroke last December was when — or even if — she would curl again.
The 76-year-old from St. Vital had played twice before in the Canada 55+ Games, a multi-sport event for seniors held every second year, but she had no illusions about competing in 2012.
But Ross quickly showed signs of improvement, and her curling teammates encouraged her to get back on the ice. By the end of March she was practising again.
"I’m very lucky," Ross said. "I feel like I got a second chance at life."
Once she decided she could manage using a stick to deliver the rocks, Ross agreed to skip her team at this year’s Games in Cape Breton in the 65-plus age group.
Joining her were fellow St. Vital residents Donna Sainsbury, who threw the first three rocks of each end, and Marie Montsion, who threw the next three.
The trio brought home silver medals for their second-place finish in the three-team competition. They needed a draw to the button to edge Saskatchewan for silver.
"We were ecstatic," Ross said. "For one reason, we were naturally the underdogs with only three of us curling. But we had the whole arena behind us. They really wanted us to win, so it was quite exciting."
Sainsbury, 70, was impressed by how quickly her skip took to using the stick, something she herself uses.
"She did really well," Sainsbury said. "She adopted the stick and went out there and we did it."
Sainsbury was glad that she was able to talk Ross into coming back to the sport.
"I did a lot of convincing," she said. "But I knew she was up to it."
It was also the third 55+ Games for Sainsbury, while Montsion was a first-time participant.
Sainsbury said one of the reasons she was so eager to go to Nova Scotia was how great an experience the previous two Games had been.
"We’ve had such a wonderful time," she said. "We had a lot of camaraderie with the other teams."
Manitoba’s mixed team, a group from Carman, also won the silver medal and celebrated over dinner with the women.
Ross and her teammates are longtime members of the Fort Rouge women’s league who don’t take the game too seriously.
"I’m not really a competitor," Ross said. "The co-ordinator for the Manitoba Senior Games phoned me in 2008 and said I should put a team in, and that’s how I got into it."
Sainsbury said she’s come to enjoy competition more than she thought she would, but it isn’t her main attraction to the sport.
"It’s very social," she said. "The women are wonderful and we have a fabulous time on the ice. I wish we could get more people interested."