Local Club: Ottawa/Granite Curling Club
By Ethan Diamandas
Lisa Weagle has plenty of curling experience.
The 36-year-old Ottawa native represented Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and has medalled over the years in big moments such as the World Curling Championships and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
But, with the 2022 Beijing Olympics just days away, Weagle’s taking on an unconventional role in the sport—and she’s thrilled to be a part of something so unique.
After parting ways with her team of 10 years skipped by Rachel Homan, Weagle joined Jennifer Jones’ Manitoba-based squad, this time as its fifth member and a backup to lead Dawn McEwen. On Nov. 28, Team Jones bested Tracy Fleury’s rink in the Canadian trials to earn a berth to the Olympics.
Traditionally, a four-woman Olympic curling rink takes on a temporary reserve player for a given tournament, basing the lot of its team bonding and training around the starting four. Jones’ club employs a rotation system, where Weagle will occasionally sub in for McEwen.
“I think we’re one of the few top teams that actually have a full five-player rotation,” Weagle told the Sports Pages before a training session at the Alliston Curling Club near Barrie, Ont.
After the initial uncertainty of being a free agent while dealing with the pandemic subsided, Weagle said it’s been a smooth transition to her first new team in a decade.
“The integration was really seamless,” Weagle said. “And I played against all these girls for years. I’ve known them, but now I get to know them on a different level.”
Months would go by between Weagle joining Team Jones in March 2020 and her meeting her teammates in person, but she said she’s struck up an excellent relationship with her current crew, especially co-lead McEwen, considered one of the best Canadian female curlers ever at her position.
“Dawn always wants to make sure that we’re both recognized as lead,” Weagle said.
There’s mutual respect between the two — and part of Weagle’s new role involves supporting her teammates in whatever capacity is necessary. When McEwen, who’s also originally from Ottawa, stepped away during the 2020-2021 season to manage her pregnancy, Weagle stepped up in her place.
“For me, there’s really no ego attached to my position,” Weagle said. “Whether I’m on the ice or whether I’m on the bench, I know that I’m contributing to the team.”
Another unique benefit is that her new rink can utilize the ‘Weagle Wiggle’ — also known as a tick shot — which is used in late ends to disperse an opponent’s centre guard. Now, Weagle is sharing her knowledge of the specialty move to help strengthen Team Jones’ already dangerous skillset.
“Dawn and I talk about the tick shot a lot,” Weagle said. “And that was one of the things that when I joined the team she was asking, ‘How do you practice it? How do you play it? What’s your approach?’”
While Team Homan frequently relied on the tick shot, Weagle said Jones — a women’s curling legend — leads her team in a different tactical manner.
“Jennifer, she’s got so much experience,” Weagle said, “and has such an amazing strategic mind that sometimes she calls shots a little bit differently than I would expect we might have on Team Homan.
“She is this really fearless skip and has so much confidence in our team and she’s not afraid to go for it when the opportunity presents itself.”
The Jones rink’s makeup will be so critical to its success, and Weagle said her new group simply has a different DNA than teams past, which is a good thing.
When Weagle accepted the call from Team Jones nearly two years ago, she wasn’t entirely sure how things would end up, but she did know she wanted to write a new chapter of her life.
With another Olympic appearance just days away, and a fresh set of teammates by her side, Weagle’s new chapter is off to a hot start — and she’s ready for the challenge, no matter what’s asked of her.
“I’m really proud of my role on this team,” she said.
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