Monday, February 9, 1998
Schmirler nearly blows it
You had to be careful.
"The button is down. The broom is up. You'd better be looking up,'' she said.
Schmirler made the first ever game of curling at the Olympics a lot more exciting than necessary. It took a double take out by third Jan Becker with her last rock to beat Lisa Schoeneberg of the USA 7-6.
The Canadians turned a walkover into a high wire act until the Americans presented Becker with the can't-miss double.
"That definitely was the turning point. It really wasn't that difficult. There was no hole between those two rocks. We were definitely in a little trouble until then.''
But this wasn't a day for a game story. This was history. And all four of the Canadian girls were more than impressed with the moment.
"It was a real thrill, said lead Marcia Gudereit. "To be out there as the first ones, the first time curling is in the Olympics, it was just a real thrill.''
For these girls it was just great to get going and starting thinking curling more often than about their kids, if that's possible.
"My 14-month old Colin is so close to speaking. He's going to be saying his first words any minute now. I know I'm going to miss his first words while I'm here,'' said Gudereit.
"I said to the girls when we were on the ice and just ready to begin. 'This is just a little bit special isn't it?' ''said Becker.
Until now the team has being having a lot of experiences they aren't really used to. Experiences like walking in the opening ceremonies. And taking sex tests.
Four women with newborn babies really ought not have to take a sex test but rules are rules.
"We've been joking about that quite a bit,'' said Gudereit. "All four of us have had kids in the last two years.
"I haven't heard yet,'' said Becker. "I guess that means I passed mine.''
When somebody asked her about her little one, she cut the writer off.
"I miss him. Don't talk about him.''
Schmirler said the sex test bothered her.
"I know who I am and my husband knows who I am,'' she said.
But the rest of it she's loving.
"It's really, really amazing to be an actual Olympian,'' she said. "I know that guy who won the gold medal in snowboarding. I met him the other day.''
She said she couldn't really find the words to describe the feeling this day.
"It was just so special to be here representing Canada with the Maple Leaf on my back.''
No matter were you wandered around Kazakoski arena, you couldn't help but run into emotional Canadians.
If there had been one man in the entire world who should have lived to see this day, it was Ray Kingsmith of Calgary.
"He'd be absolutely ectatic today,'' said Canadian team leader Gerry Peckham of Prince George, B.C..
"This is a day in history. I don't think anyone would have felt more emotion than Ray Kingsmith. I'm sure he's watching from up there somewhere,'' he said of the late curling executive who organized curling as a demonstration sport for the Calgary Olympics in '88.
"If there is anybody who should be here watching it should be Ray Kingsmith. He had more to do with this moment than anybody else I can think of.''
Peckham was writing a letter to his wife during the sixth end trying to describe the moment and some of his thoughts.
"I think it's great that this first time that curling is officially in the Olympics is in Japan. Behind Ray Kingsmith, Japan did the most to see that this day came. It was Japan that did the work at the IOC level. Japan played such a major role.''
HE SHOULDA BEEN HERE
And back in Edmonton there's another man who should have been here for this moment.
"Wallysan,'' said Peckham.
Wally Ursulak was curling's Christopher Columbus in these parts. He brought the game to Japan, in particular the northern island of Hokkaido.
"Many have come since, but Wallysan was the individual most responsible for bringing this sport here back in the late 60s or early 70s.''
It's come a long way, baby.