Curlers take one for the team by forfeiting gold-medal game Canadian squad makes sacrifice after getting COVID at international championship

Winnipeg athletes wanted to bond by winning the top prize at the 2022 World Deaf Curling Championship — not by testing positive for COVID-19, but that’s how an unforgettable tournament played out.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/03/2022 (364 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg athletes wanted to bond by winning the top prize at the 2022 World Deaf Curling Championship — not by testing positive for COVID-19, but that’s how an unforgettable tournament played out.

On March 25, the day before the Canadian women’s deaf curling team was to compete in the finals against Ukraine, four of the five players — two of whom are from Manitoba — tested positive for the virus using rapid tests.

“I was just feeling relieved, from the guilt that I felt of not knowing if I was positive or not — but I also knew instantly that I had just lost the gold medal game. So, there was a lot of heartbreak and crying and tears,” said Hannah Brown, who is based out of Winnipeg’s Heather Curling Club and plays second on the national team.

“It’s one of those events that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives.”

Despite their disappointment about the outcome of their first international event as a team, the 26-year-old said the women knew they had done the right thing by testing themselves after they started feeling symptoms, and being honest about the results.

Brown, who is hard of hearing and usually wears a cochlear implant (although competitors are not allowed to wear any hearing aids at the world championship and rely on sign language on the ice), started feeling extreme fatigue on March 23.

At the time, she said she figured it was because she is sensitive to changing weather conditions and the event was held in Banff, nearly 1,500 kilometres from home.

The next morning, after waking up with a funny feeling in her throat, she decided to take a rapid test. It yielded negative results, so she played on Thursday.

“It’s one of those events that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives.”– Hannah Brown

“By the end of the game, I felt like I got hit by a truck. I had hot-cold flashes, I couldn’t warm up, I felt very nauseous, I had a headache, a runny nose,” she said, adding the team luckily had a bye on Friday before the finals so she rested in isolation.

By the time Saturday morning came around, several team members were feeling under the weather so they all took tests and learned the positive results.

The team, which also includes skip Emma Logan, vice Holly Maschmeyer, lead Susanne Beriault and fifth Cecilia Tung, decided to forfeit their last game on Saturday.

The four curlers who were ill live-streamed the closing ceremonies together from self-imposed quarantine in a hotel room. They would each take home a silver medal for their 5-2 record overall.

The final was anticipated to be highly competitive, given the Canadian women had played against the Ukrainians twice in the double round-robin format tournament. Both teams had lost and won against each other.

“Ukraine was a force to be reckoned with… For them to play so well through adversity over what was happening back in their home was so impressive,” said Beriault, a Winnipeg curler who often practises at the St. Vital Curling Club, in an email.

Beriault, 43, echoed her teammate’s heartbreak and disappointment about being unable to compete for first place on home soil. She experienced an itchy throat, cough, congestion and runny nose. She has since recovered.

Aside from a team of volunteers sanitizing rocks and tables between games, there were few public health protocols in place because restrictions had eased in Alberta, she noted.

Athletes were required to be fully immunized to play, but masking and frequent testing were optional. Manitoba players and coaches told the Free Press many attendees were lenient about donning face coverings.

Coaches Chris and Lorne Hamblin said they had encouraged players to wear masks. The infectious Omicron variant, however, ended up affecting every team except for the national mixed-doubles team, they confirmed during a recent phone call.

More than a half-dozen people connected to the Canadian teams, including fans, tested positive.

The women were spooked into wearing them rigorously in indoor settings after a peer on the men’s team tested positive early on in the competition.

Brown said the result “shook up” the team, made them realize COVID-19 is still real and reminded them about the vast number of close contacts they had, between fans and family members, other teams, and outings to restaurants.

“I just hope that everyone recovers well, and that we can play one day without having thoughts of COVID lingering above our heads,” said Winnipegger Ross LaVallee, skip of the national men’s team, which is made up entirely of Manitobans.

One week after she began feeling symptoms, Brown’s cough was still lingering.

The international curling competition takes place every four years.

Manitoba’s deaf community is often well represented at high-level curling events because of local access to state-of-the-art equipment, including video programs, at the Cargill Curling Training Centre in Morris, said Lorne, who trained curlers for the March 12-26 event at the year-round rink.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.


Updated on Thursday, March 31, 2022 7:29 PM CDT: Fixes date to March 23

Updated on Friday, April 1, 2022 2:05 PM CDT: Adds credit to photo captions

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