Toronto Star

Ice can trip up even the best curlers

When elite contenders fall, risk of injury often takes back seat to protecting rocks


ST. CATHARINES, ONT.— From funny to frightenin­g, falling is a fact of life in curling.

Elite curlers are not immune. An informal survey of women at this week’s Canadian championsh­ip yields a few stories about feet leaving the ice and elbows, arms and buttocks taking the brunt of a spill.

“I probably have a really good fall at least once a season,” Alberta lead Alison Thiessen said.

A wipeout can happen during a practice, a league game or in front of rolling cameras at national championsh­ips, recording the pratfall for posterity. The women move so comfortabl­y on the ice at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont., it’s easy to forget they have a slider on one shoe that can turn into a banana peel.

Falls aren’t surprising when you consider curlers lunge out of the hack balancing on one foot far ahead of the other.

They lean their body weight into their broom heads to maximize sweeping pressure while stepping over a minefield of guards in front of the rings.

Injuries are a possibilit­y but uncommon at their level of curling. What concerns them more is touching the rock in motion with their brooms or bodies as they go down.

The stone is then “burned” and immediatel­y removed from play. It’s basically giving a free throw and momentum to the opposition.

A spill in practice might produce nothing worse than giggles but, in an important game, it’s mortifying.

“My first Scotties, we were playing against Shannon Kleibrink and it was my first-ever game on TSN,” Ontario lead Lisa Weagle recalled.

“First, I burned one of (skip) Rachel’s rocks sweeping and, the next end, I fell while sweeping. I didn’t burn that rock, but super-embarrassi­ng. We managed to win the game somehow. I’ve never been happier to get off the ice.”

Getting out of the way of a sliding rock is their priority, as opposed to protecting themselves when they land on the ice.

“You kind of just move your broom, let the rock go by and tuck and roll,” Ontario second Joanne Courtney said. “Then you try to get back in (to sweeping) but everyone’s laughing too hard.”

Northern Ontario’s front end of Ashley Sippala and Sarah Potts have a pact. If one goes down, the other sweeper has permission to push her teammate out of the way with her broom as hard as it takes.

“One time, Ashley fell in front of a rock,” Potts said.

“It was funny because it was a scrub game and it didn’t matter. I took my broom and I shoved her out of the way. If I fall in front of the rock, she should shove.”

Awobble sliding out of the hack can turn into a belly flop, but those who keep their heads can still execute their intended shot.

“I think I fell in a league game last season and I made the shot, a double,” Northern Ontario third Kendra Lilly said.

“I slid out of the hack and I don’t know if my foot slipped and I went face down, belly down and just shot the rock down. Everyone stood up and was clapping. I was so embarrasse­d.”

 ?? NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Quebec skip Eve Belisle escaped without injury after falling at the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS Quebec skip Eve Belisle escaped without injury after falling at the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

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