Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Forever a curler at heart

Canada's Darbyshire grew up at the rink and never really left it

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VANCOUVER -- So many times this dream could have ended and, truthfully, Carolyn Darbyshire could have walked away from the game she loved with no regrets.

A three-time provincial champion -- once with Manitoba and twice with Alberta -- she experienced more highs from the roaring game than most who ever step into a hack.

What a story, then, to see the product of Arborg, raised in Portage la Prairie, here at the Vancouver Winter Centre wearing Canada's colours and sporting what appears to be a perma-grin.

All this at age 46, which officially makes her the oldest member of the Canadian team. Unofficially, it also makes her tale one of the most intriguing at these Games.

"This is all so cool," Darbyshire said. "I've been really enjoying it and making sure I take in everything that I can.

"Seeing all the players, all the athletes... our first day in the Athletes Village we were sitting about three tables away from Jari Kurri and near the Russian hockey team. It's just amazing here. I've been taking a ton of pictures."

Born in Arborg in 1963, Darbyshire and her family moved to Portage when she was just one. As fate would have it, their new home was smack-dab behind a curling rink. Dad was a diehard curler and, before long, so was everyone else in the house.

Interestingly, mom Merline didn't just become a club curler, she became a two-time provincial champion in 1974, and again 11 years later with her daughter Carolyn as second.

"I can remember when she won in '74, for us, it was just another spiel," Darbyshire said. "We asked her, 'Oh, mom, what do you win?' and she said it was a trip to Victoria, and we asked if she won, could we come. She did, and we went with her.

"I was throwing by then, just a little bit. We lived at the curling rink, so my sister and I were always there running around being rink rats. I just got hooked on it, got a pair of second-hand shoes and would go out and throw, throw, throw because they were always there curling in men's, mixed and women's. Being at the rink is what I knew."

What makes an Olympian? Sometimes it's not always just about athletic gifts, although Darbyshire is still as fit as any curler in this event and still flexible enough to get down into her trademark "Manitoba tuck" delivery.

Sometimes it's about experience and the perspective that gives you, and for that, a little background is in order.

Darbyshire moved to Alberta in 1989 and, together with husband Rod McRorie, founded Canadian Decal, a sign company. Working at a home office, she helped raise stepson Shea and daughter Alexandria and was a rock for the family when Shea was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer.

He went through months of treatment in 2002 and Darbyshire was convinced her curling days were done.

But when she threw her first rock Tuesday, Merline was there and so was her dad, her husband and two kids, both of whom are now healthy and active.

"She always believed," Rod told the Calgary Herald. "She never said it out loud, but you just knew she was going to the Olympics. She just had a positive attitude all the way through. Never a doubt.

"I couldn't be happier for her. To stay in the sport as long as she has, it doesn't matter if it's hockey or curling or whatever it is, you still have to have it upstairs. You have to love the game."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2010 C6

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