By Martin Cleary
Sometimes life creeps up on you and delivers a knock-your-socks-off moment.
Collinda Joseph had one of those startling, but thrilling surprises recently in her role as a high-performance wheelchair curler and ambassador.
When she checked her emails one day in August, she couldn’t believe what she was reading. And she had never heard of the Governor-General’s Curling Club.
“I had no idea it existed,” Joseph, 58, offered during a phone interview this week. “When I got the email, I was thrilled, really honoured and taken aback.
“Honestly, I was surprised. I couldn’t believe it. It was really, really cool.”
On Sept. 11 in Edmonton, a humble and nervous Joseph was one of nine inductees into the Governor General’s Curling Club, which isn’t an actual venue with sheets of ice, but rather considered the national hall of fame for the country’s best living athletes, coaches, builders and administrators.
The Governor General’s Curling Club has 143 members and the inclusion of Joseph brings the Ottawa membership to 16. The other honoured curlers from Ottawa are Elaine Brimicombe, Ross Davey, Marian Dupont, Al Haggerty, Doug Kreviazuk, Jim Moffatt, Earle Morris, Bruce Neill, Layne Noble, Joe Potter, John Shea, Gord Stockdale, Wil Thurlow, George Wright and Jim Young.
The 150th anniversary of the Governor General’s Curling Club will be held during the 2023-24 season in Ottawa.
At the ceremony, Joseph felt she was walking among curling royalty. She would look one way and there was Al Hackner, a two-time world and two-time Brier champion.
Over there was Kevin Martin, the 2010 Olympic gold medallist, 2008 world men’s champion and four-time Brier winner. Sitting beside her at dinner was Kerry Galusha, who has made 20 appearances representing the Northwest Territories at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Gary Macyk, Jerry Shoemaker, Darrell Ell, Jackie Rae Greening and Marla Forth were all standouts in their curling communities across Canada. It was an awe-inspiring moment for Joseph, who has been a long-time member of the R.A. Curling Club and lives in Stittsville with husband Euan and daughters Sara and Hannah.
“It was really humbling. I was too shy to speak to Al Hackner,” Joseph admitted. “They were such amazing people. I look forward to taking part in future events and raising money for (curling) scholarships for university students.”
Joseph has been involved in wheelchair curling since 2006, was invited to her first Curling Canada high-performance training camp in 2012, made her first national team in 2019 and has won medals at three major international competitions in the past four seasons.
She helped Canada win the silver medal in the mixed team competition at the 2020 world wheelchair curling championships and was a bronze medallist in the same discipline at the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Games.
At the 2023 world mixed doubles wheelchair curling championships in Richmond, B.C., Joseph and Dennis Thiessen of Sanford, MB., teamed to win their preliminary pool at 8-0. In the playoffs, they lost their close semifinal to the United States, but defeated China for the bronze medal.
Joseph, who is the manager accessibility and education for Accessibility Standards Canada, also has been an ambassador for wheelchair curling as a coach, teacher, committee member and volunteer.
The Governor-General’s Curling Club selection committee was impressed with Joseph’s resume, especially in the field of accessibility outside of curling, which also is one of the beliefs of the organization.
“I have admired what she has done over the years. She is a great athlete and ambassador,” said Brimicombe, the Governor-General’s Curling Club secretary, in a phone interview. “The Governor-General’s Curling Club supports diversity, equity and inclusivity and she also met those requirements.
“She also has sat on a number of boards and given her expertise on accessibility. That’s as important as being a really good athlete.”
Since 2002, Joseph has been a member of the Canadian Standards Association B-651 technical committee on Accessibility of the Built Environment, and joined the Abilities Centre Ottawa board of directors in 2015.
Her dedicated advocacy work also has made her a member of the consumer advisory committee at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre as well as Ontario’s Built Environment Standards Development Committee.
Whether on or off the ice, Joseph has been recognized in various ways: Algonquin College’s Community Leader Award in memory of Cathy Kerr, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada Deputy Minister’s Award for outstanding achievement for excellence in service to Canadians, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.
Joseph and curling coach Carl Rennick also have won a Petro-Canada FACE (Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence) grant.
During the Governor-General’s Curling Club induction ceremony, Joseph received a commemorative pin, a red jacket to wear at special club functions, and a certificate.
Joseph, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 1983 when the train she was travelling in from Nice to Paris derailed, is in Kitchener-Waterloo this week for a Team Canada training camp. The team is preparing for international four-person and mixed doubles competitions in Scotland.
Her ultimate goals this season are the 2024 world wheelchair curling four-person championship March 2-9 and/or the world mixed doubles championship March 10-16. Both competitions are in Gangneung, Korea.
“I’ll play where they want me to play,” Joseph said. “My preference would be the mixed doubles as I feel I’m involved in every single shot and every single moment. It’s a different strategy. If not, great, I’m happy to help the team.”
As a long-term goal, Joseph would like to represent Canada at the 2026 Paralympic Games in either four-person mixed team or mixed doubles, which was recently accepted into the program.
“I could see myself trying for 2030 (Paralympics),” she projected.
When she takes a break from curling, she likes to cheer for the Ottawa Senators. Joseph has been a season-ticket holder since the Senators rejoined the NHL as an expansion team for the 1992-93 campaign.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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