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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Cardiac issue delivered Calissa Daly and siblings to curling

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

FOR THE LOVE OF CURLING – PART 2: The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is a well recognized brand in the curling community as the long-time title sponsor for the Canadian and provincial women’s championships.

Well, the children of Ottawa’s Daly family have their own closer-to-home version of the Tournament of Hearts. Colton, Camille and Calissa have these cardiac initials after their names – ARVD (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia).

When Colton was eight years old, he had a heart attack, which understandably rocked the foundation of the family. He was later diagnosed with ARVD, a rare cardiomyopathy. Camille and Calissa would also have similar diagnoses.

For people with ARVD, the right ventricle heart muscle is replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue, dilating the ventricle and making it contract poorly. It weakens the heart’s ability to work and can trigger arrhythmias and cardiac arrest.

Once everyone in the Daly family became familiar with ARVD, the parents started the process of finding a new sports avenue for their three active and competitive children. Their search led them to curling, which was cardiologist approved.

As young adults, who are now being treated with medication or being monitored regularly by a cardiologist, curling is still a vital part of their lives, especially for Calissa, 22.

Curling Canada recently announced its 11 recipients of the For the Love of Curling scholarship program and Calissa Daly found her name in the winners’ circle along with teammate Michaela Robert of Clarksburg, ON. and Queen’s University.

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The academic/athletic scholarship program is open to curlers ages 16 to 23 with a minimum academic average of 75 per cent. Daly is taking the master of public administration program at Queen’s University.

Curling Canada reviewed 61 applications and awarded 11 scholarships worth $2,500 each. Celeste Gauthier of Ottawa and Ryerson University and Christopher Pratt of Calgary and Carleton University also were scholarship recipients.

Calissa Daly. Photo provided

“The diagnoses changed our lives in sport almost completely,” Daly wrote in an email interview. “At the time of our diagnoses, we had participated in soccer, hockey and triathlons. We were highly competitive children and loved most sports.

“However, ARVD robs people of the ability to participate in most sports, let alone compete in physically demanding sports like the ones in which we had hoped to participate.

“For (us), this diagnosis was devastating. It meant we could no longer compete alongside our friends and excel in the traditional competitive sports our friends enjoyed.”

When curling was introduced, the siblings embraced the roaring game. A two-time Ontario junior champ, Calissa played in the Canadian championships with Ottawa Curling Club’s Emma Wallingford in 2018 and Dundas Valley’s Thea Coburn in 2019. She also was on World Curling Tour event-winning team.

Daly and team members Breanna Rozon, Michaela Robert and Alice Holyoke are aiming to qualify for the 2022 Ontario Scotties, earn enough World Curling Tour points to enter Tier 2 Grand Slam events and become the Canada’s U25 Next Gen team.

Personally, Daly would like to be a youth ambassador for curling, work alongside Black Rock Initiative to increase diversity and accessibility in curling and connect with Goldline Curling.

“For a young kid who was just told that they could no longer compete in any sports, I felt extremely lucky to have found curling,” said Daly, who reached the QF sharing duties as skip with Rozon at last weekend’s Oakville Labour Day Classic.

“Nowadays, I would say my life with ARVD is pretty normal. I am followed by a cardiologist frequently and pace myself when training for curling.”

What does Daly love about curling? The whole curling community.

“Altogether, my experience in curling and with the curling community has completely shaped who I am today,” she highlighted. “Although I faced adversity early on as a child due to my heart condition, the acceptance I have felt from the curling community over the past 16 years has inspired me to give back to the sport and support initiatives that foster inclusivity and acceptance.”

Daly added she has been inspired in different ways by individuals like Earle Morris, Andrew Paris, Bill Rogers and Erin Flowers.

When Daly learned she had become a For the Love of Curling recipient, she “felt extremely honoured” and it “felt extra special to receive it alongside my teammate Michaela (Robert).”

“It was also monumental to me in a way as I spoke mainly about diversity and accessibility in my scholarship application,” Daly wrote.

“Therefore, it felt as though my ideas were being heard and validated by Curling Canada, which is very exciting.”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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