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Dissanayake steps in to fill the void on talented Team Toner
2021-07-02
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For many a winter, Clara Dissanayake has sent her body hurtling down the slopes of the Adanac Ski Hill, the talented club racer weaving her way through the gates before exploding through the finish line.

This coming winter, the 15 year-old grade 11 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School is hoping to control the curling stones with that same blend of power and precision.

Dissanayake will step into one of the more talented youth curling teams in the area, taking over from lead Emilie Glabb with the Mia Toner U18 rink, with the Curl Sudbury quartet anxious to retain the spot at nationals they had secured prior to the pandemic.

"Emilie made the difficult decision to step back and focus on other endeavours," said Toner. "There's so many great curlers in Sudbury, in northern Ontario. We had to try and pick someone who would fit well with our team, dynamics-wise, skill-wise."

"We thought Clara brings so much to the team: a real positive energy, multi-sport athletic talent and a competitive edge."

Dissanayake will look to slide in as seamlessly as possible to the rink that also features vice Valerie Ouimet and second Justine Toner, with the skip the oldest of the group at just 16 years of age.

Having curled for most of her youth out of the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club, Dissanayake is aware she is playing catch-up in a sport that wasn't her prevailing winter pastime, in previous years.

"We're going to discuss, as a team, what sorts of things we will need to do to bring my abilities up to speed," she said. "Some of that depends on where my abilities are at, once we step back onto the ice again."

"For now, we're doing a lot of dryland , which should help a lot."

And it's not as though the lessons learned as a successful member of the Adanac Ski Club will suddenly go to waste. "My time in alpine skiing taught me dedication, time commitment, even just body strength," said Dissanayake.

"Curling really requires a lot of strength and endurance."

Given the familiarity that exists within the Sudbury curling fraternity, not to mention time spent together at summer Amethyst Curling Camps in the past, Dissanayake has already identified some particular elements from the existing Toner shot-making repertoire that she expects to tap into.

"One shot that I would absolutely love to develop is a tick shot, off a guard, usually played in the first few shots of an end," said Clara. "I think that would be super cool to learn how to do."

While the coveted spot in this talented lineup would have surely drawn out of town interest, Toner and company were relatively set on seeking to fill the void locally, if at all possible.

"Being locally connected allows us to hang out off the ice, to practice together, which is really important for technical development as well," said Toner. "Being able to work with all of the coaches is nice."

"We're a younger team and team dynamics is such a big aspect of the game."

Relatively casual acquaintances at this point, the new teammates should have plenty of time to forge deeper friendships in the winter to come, as the young teens unveil various quirks and quarks of their personalities.

"Something that they do not know about Clara is that I'm extremely obsessed with Australia," suggested Dissanayake with a laugh. "I absolutely love kangaroos and would love to go there some day."

For now, Team Toner will be content to set their sights on the 2022 Canadian U18 Championships in Timmins, as well as the 2022 Ontario Winter Games, a precursor to the Canada Winter Games the following year on Prince Edward Island.

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