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Organizers elated to produce B.C. Curling Championships in Kamloops amid virus-related restrictions, travel roadblocks

Doug Sarti, communications and marketing manager for Curl BC, used an analogy to explain how difficult it has been to bring forth the B.C. Curling Championships. “It’s kind of like doing a U-turn in an aircraft carrier,” Sarti said.
2022 JAN 4 THOMPSON feat
Karla Thompson of Kamloops is aiming to return to the women's national curling championship.

Doug Sarti, communications and marketing manager for Curl BC, used an analogy to explain how difficult it has been to bring forth the B.C. Curling Championships.

“It’s kind of like doing a U-turn in an aircraft carrier,” Sarti said.

After much pivoting, the ship is finally coming to port.

The Scotties B.C. Women’s Curling Championship and B.C. Men’s Curling Championship will run concurrently from Tuesday (Jan. 4) to Sunday at the Kamloops Curling Club downtown.

No fans will be permitted in the building for the tournament, but they will be able to watch round-robin draws online at youtube.com/CurlBCTV and semifinal and final tilts on CHEK-TV and online at cbcsports.ca.

The event is being held without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions, part of provincial health orders that appeared to nix the event for a second consecutive year when they were issued in mid-December.

All tournaments were to be cancelled because of rising incidence of cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, according to the orders.

On Dec. 29, organizers confirmed the tournaments can go ahead because provincial championships that lead to national championships are exempt from the orders, said Sarti.

The on-and-off-again status of the event has made planning tumultuous for organizers such as Linda Bolton and Brenda Nordin, who received a tip of the cap from Sarti.

“We just feel elated with happiness to now be able to sit back and watch our amazing volunteers and team work the jobs they’ve been preparing for for two years,” Nordin said, noting stringent protocols are being followed inside the club.

“It’s disappointing we don’t get to have fans in the stands, but we have amazing sponsors that stuck with us. We are just in awe of the sponsors. We’ve had lots of forks in the road.”

Restrictions were the follow-up haymaker in a one-two punch that included devastation on highways after a mid-November storm walloped southern B.C., making travel for playdowns impossible.

“We had people who were flying, who then cancelled their plane tickets,” Sarti said, noting this year’s provincial championships are open events. “People had to re-buy tickets. Then there’s the whole road problem. There’s COVID. We did lose a couple of teams through that process.”

Twelve men’s rinks and eight women’s teams will compete for the opportunity to represent B.C. at national championships.

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the women’s national championship, will run from Jan. 28 to Feb. 6 in Thunder Bay, Ont. The men will toil at the Tim Hortons Brier from March 5 to March 14 in Lethbridge.

There is no shortage of hometown representation at this year’s provincials, which will feature new ice and new rocks in the Kamloops Curling Club.

Team Brown of Kamloops, which includes skip Corryn Brown, third Erin Pincott, second Dezaray Hawes and lead Sam Fisher, will be defending its back-to-back titles.

“It’s tough to say we have an advantage because we haven’t been on this ice, either, but I think it’s a comfortable setting for us at the club, so that might be an advantage, but definitely no hometown crowd,” Brown said.

When the provincials were cancelled last year, the Brown rink was chosen to represent B.C. at the 2021 national Scotties, the nod a result of its victory at the 2020 Scotties in Cranbrook, an 8-7 extra ends triumph over Sarah Wark of Abbotsford.

Wark, which bested Brown 7-4 in the 2019 B.C. final in Quesnel, has picked up two Kamloopsians to comprise its front end for this year’s provincial championship — second Karla Thompson and lead Amanda Guido.

“Wark is a strong team and I’m close with Corryn Brown’s team, too,” said Thompson, who skipped a Kamloops rink to victory at the 2016 B.C. Scotties. “I played soccer with the girls in the summer and my kids look up to all four of them, so it’s definitely interesting. It puts my kids in a tricky spot again to choose who they cheer for.”

Kim Slattery, who is from Kamloops, plays lead for the Vancouver-based Sheilla Cowan rink.

Cierra Fisher, Sam Fisher’s sister, rounds out the Kamloops curlers on the women’s side. She will play second for the Taylor Reese-Hansen rink of Victoria.

On the men’s side, Kamloops product Jim Cotter — who has curled at 10 Briers — will skip a Vernon-based rink that includes third Grant Olsen, second Andrew Nerpin and lead Rick Sawatsky. Olsen is from Kamloops.

Mitchell Kopytko will skip a junior Kamloops rink that includes third Calder Fadden, second Coburn Fadden and lead Cooper Fadden. The Fadden brothers — Calder and Cooper are twins — recently moved to Kamloops from Fort McMurray to attend Thompson Rivers University.

Rounding out the local granite throwers on the men’s side is Jared Kolomaya, who will play second for Kelowna-based Team Richard. Kolomaya is married to Sam Fisher.

The women’s final will get underway at 9 a.m. on Sunday, with the men’s gold-medal matchup to follow at 2 p.m.

“Certainly, ticket sales are important, but more than anything, our organizing committee in Kamloops just wanted this to happen,” Sarti said. “Last year got cancelled and it was a terrible disappointment for everybody involved. We’re pulling it off and it’s going to be great to have championship curling back after two years.”