HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
When you think of a sports team, you have the concept of players coming together, training daily, bonding through different events, travelling as a unit and aiming to win their various games.
Curling doesn’t quite fit into that mold, especially if the players are in their late teens and early twenties and are attending university or college.
Emily Deschenes is a perfect example of being the skip of her own curling rink, but really only seeing her teammates when it’s time for a championship, a qualifier or a cash spiel. For the most part, the individual players practise on their own and come together a day or two before a big competition to prepare for the multi-day ice wars.
Representing the Rideau Curling Club and serving as Team Ontario champion, the members of the Deschenes rink hit the pause or semi-pause button on their post-secondary education this week for the Canadian U21 women’s junior curling championship at the Stratford Rotary Complex in Stratford, Ont.
The Deschenes rink, which is completed by third Emma Artichuk, second Grace Lloyd, lead Evie Robert, alternate Adrienne Belliveau and coach Greg Artichuk, opened its Pool B round-round session with four straight wins, defeating Holly Hafeli of British Columbia 11-8, Claire Booth, the Alberta No. 2 team, 10-3, Bayly Scoffin of Yukon 13-4, and Morgan Maguet, the Manitoba No. 2 rink, 9-4.
In Tuesday morning’s meeting of a pair of undefeated teams, Deschenes rebounded from an early 3-0 deficit after the first end to lead 5-4 after six ends. But Taylour Stevens of Nova Scotia controlled three of the final four ends, scoring one in the seventh and 10th ends and stealing two in the eighth for an 8-7 decision and a 6-0 record. The loss dropped Deschenes to 4-1.
Deschenes, who was scheduled to meet Quebec’s Lauren Cheal, 0-5, Tuesday night for her rink’s sixth preliminary match, is taking the business fundamentals program at Algonquin College, while three of her four teammates are studying at southwestern Ontario universities.
Artichuk is studying communications at Wilfrid Laurier University, Lloyd is focused on kinesiology at McMaster University and Belliveau is a kinesiology student as well, but at Waterloo University. Robert is taking a year away from her academic studies.
“We have all been practising alone because we all are in different places of Ontario because of school,” Deschenes wrote in an email interview. “But before nationals started, we had two very good practices as a team to fine tune everything.”
The front end of the Deschenes rink is well established, while the back end is relatively new. Deschenes and Artichuk started curling in the same Little Rocks program and have been teammates for more than 10 years. Lloyd has played for Deschenes the past two years, while Robert is the newest full-time member of the team, joining this season.
During the 2019-20 season, Deschenes, Artichuk, Jillian Uniacke and Celeste Gauthier won the Ontario U18 championship and advanced to the Canadian championship, where they won the silver medal.
“I think a reason that our team has been so successful this season is because we are all putting in the work, when we aren’t together, and doing off-ice training,” added Deschenes, who also placed seventh with Canada’s mixed curling team at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games. “We also all get along very well and have lots of fun while playing.”
Deschenes also has a rink that has a variety of necessary skills to be successful on the ice.
“Emma is very dedicated to training,” said Deschenes, who describes herself as very calm, cool and collected. “Grace is a very great teammate. Evie is a very powerful sweeper. Adrienne is very detail oriented. Greg keeps us in line.”
The Deschenes rink qualified for the Canadian U21 championship by going undefeated in four matches at the Ontario championship. After three decisive wins on the A side, Deschenes went directly to the final and defeated Navan Curling Club’s Dominique Vivier 5-3.
In November, Deschenes reached the Ontario U20 final to qualify for the Canadian world junior qualifying tournament, but lost to the Belliveau rink from the Dundas Golf and Curling Club. Deschenes also won a Crystal Slam competition in Guelph.
While the COVID-19 pandemic restricted many team sports, like basketball and volleyball, from having its players step onto the court, the Deschenes rink was able to continue its regular training through a provincial exemption as high-performance athletes.
“We were able to get practice ice when we were shut down in January because we are a part of the Ontario Next Gen program, where we get funding, but we also got an exemption to be able to practise, since we were considered elite athletes,” she added.
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 OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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