A special journey for local curlers
by Randy Pascal
It's been quite a year already for local curlers. With the likes of the Kendra Lilly and Tracy Horgan rinks preparing for national
championships, the road has been paved.
It's a path that Paul Logan, Jason Blais, Kenny Beauvais, Tricia Leonard and Odette St Gelais are soon looking forward to follow. The five
local athletes will head west in late February, one of two Ontario representatives in curling who will compete at the 2012 Special Olympics Canada
Winter Games in St Albert, Alberta.
"Last year in Thunder Bay, we lost in the finals (6-4), but qualified for the Winter Games at that time," explained Beauvais. "That was probably our
Truth be told, this rink is quite talented, with the majority of the team competing within the Industrial Men's League every Saturday at the Sudbury
Curling Club and boasting a record of 3-1 since the beginning of 2012.
In a decade or so of regional competitions with other Special Olympic athletes, the Sudbury squad have tasted defeat only a handful of times, though
the upcoming Winter Games represents their first breakthrough at that level.
At the age of 43, Logan serves as team skip, with a dozen years of curling experience to draw on. "I have to call the shots and know where to put the
broom," he stated before practice on Monday afternoon. "I like a lot of rocks in play, with guards out front and some rocks in the house."
The team's notable improvement over the years should hardly come as a surprise, given some of the local curling mentorship the group is receiving.
A member of the Canadian Olympic hockey team in 1956 in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy), Jim Logan (Paul's father) first became involved with Special Olympics
athletes roughly a decade ago, despite no experience with the sport of curling.
"The first year Paul started curling, the coach quit and they had no one else to take over," Logan said. "Fortunately, Louise (daughter) and my
son-in-law Lee (Toner) are both avid curlers, so I said I would take over as general manager and they could teach the curling."
"Lee works with them on their deliveries and the strategy of the game." On this night, Toner is accompanied by three teammates from his men's team
vying for a berth at the Briar as Mike Jakubo, Matt Seabrook and Sandy MacEwan take some time to lend a hand.
The message seems to be working, as each cog in this curling wheel fulfills their assigned role. "I have heavy hitting capabilities - they keep me for
that purpose," said vice Jason Blais.
Having travelled to a national championship once before as a swimmer, Blais admits to finding a winter pastime that suits him just fine. "I just wanted
to try something different," he said. "It's one of those sports that I liked as soon as I started playing."
At second, Beauvais knows that he is counted on often to move the rocks those few critical every feet. "It's good to know when to sweep and when not to
sweep." Despite his role as skip, Logan is likely the most quiet of the group, according to Beauvais, seldom screaming out instructions that would echo
throughout the rink.
With a decade of curling background under his belt, Beauvais is anxious for the challenge that awaits he and his mates. "Playing new teams - we play the
same teams every year and in ten years, we've probably only lost three games."
"It will be good to have more competition," Beauvais added. "There is probably going to be some really good teams out there." Sharing the role of lead,
Leonard and St Gelais set the tone for each and every end, giving the rest of the team something to work with.
"I'm supposed to put my rocks not on the circle, just in front of the house, but sometimes it happens that they go in the house," St Gelais said. "The
other team will bump me out if they can."
At 50 years of age, St Gelais is not only the elder statesman of the group, but also the most experienced curler, having first taken up the sport from
1990 through to 2003 as a member at the Falconbridge Curling Club.
Still, she acknowledges there is more to learn. "This year, I've started watching curling on TV a little more. It helps to teach me how to do my turns
For Leonard, this championship will be extra special as she dedicates her competition to her mother, who recently passed away. "Curling is in my family
genes. My dad used to curl and my mom and my aunt."
Celebrating her 31st birthday earlier this week, Leonard ackowledges that the task of putting rocks in play in front of the house is not one that
necessarily comes naturally to the all-around athlete who also enjoys bowling, swimming and floor hockey.
"I like throwing takeouts, because I usually throw heavy," she said. "I try and hold back and not push out as much when I throw a guard." The local
curling team represent five of the eleven local athletes who will compete in St Albert beginning February 28th, with others busy with speed skating
(Tammi-Lyn Deveau) and snowshoeing.