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Fast-paced, nerve-wracking new format a hit with curlers (5 photos)

Orillia Curling Club hosts mixed doubles event; 'It's fast moving ... so it makes for a good game,' says participant

Curlers descended on the Barnfield Point Recreation Centre Saturday to rock the house as part of the Orillia Curling Club’s mixed doubles bonspiel.

The competition drew players from places such as Sturgeon Falls, Bradford, and Coldwater as 20 teams hit the Orillia ice.

“It’s a great game,” said Ken Gregory. “It’s a family game (and) anyone with ability can play.”

As a wheelchair user, he said he loves the inclusivity of the sport.

“I can play along and throw the stones from a fixed position,” said the Bradford resident. “I don’t sweep.

"In an all-wheelchair users curling game, we don’t have sweepers," said Gregory.

The game is one that allows the entire family to play together.

“This place is very accessible and the people are great,” he said, adding he had been to the Orillia curling rink several times before, as a teacher and contestant.

Curlers who use wheelchairs are limited in number because curling clubs may not have the facilities to accommodate their needs, said Gregory.

But he’s been playing for 18 years, he added, noting the last few have been spent exploring the newly introduced mixed doubles format.

“I’ve been in provincial championships and won three times,” said Gregory. “I was with Team Canada in 2007, when we curled in Germany.”

Mixed doubles is the newest competitive sport in the Olympics, said Brian Moffatt, co-organizer of the event, which hoped to collect modest donations from curlers to help support the Building Hope campaign.

“I was out driving around town and I saw a thousand people walking,” he said, referencing the recent Coldest Night of the Year event. “And I found out it was a fundraiser for the Lighthouse. So we decided to do something to help out.”

Curlers who had gathered at Barnfield, starting at 8:30 a.m., got to play three games each, competing for cash prizes. Every member also received souvenirs in the form of etched wine glasses and beer mugs.

Linda Rose, of Severn, was playing her first mixed doubles tournament.

“We tried it last fall at the Thursday night league game and wanted to try it,” she said.

It’s a faster game, said Rose, who had been on the ice with the first group and was relaxing with friends by playing games set up at the tables in the café.

“It’s two players per team, instead of four,” she noted, adding there are other differences in the format, too.

“You start with rocks that are already set up. You can get up and sweep your own rock. There isn’t really a skip (person calling the play), so both players can alternate.”

It certainly is more fast-paced and nerve wracking than regular curling, said Susan Tweedy, noting not only are there fewer players, there are also fewer rocks to throw.

“But it’s fun,” said the Coldwater resident. “It’s fast moving and you’re always involved, so it makes for a good game.”

The excitement of the game and fun aren’t the only draws of curling, said Moffatt.

“It brings friendship, fellowship, exercise and follows the general rules of reciprocity,” he said, “which means the winner buys a drink and the loser will reciprocate.”

That makes it a win-win for all, noted Moffatt.