Curlers go for gold at deaf worlds
Team Canada line-up features second thrower Nyla Kurylowich and coach Diana Backer of St. Albert
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
Canada is ready to deliver another gold-medal winning performance at the World Deaf Curling Championships with Nyla Kurylowich of St. Albert as the team’s second rocker.
Kurylowich is joined by skip Judy Robertson of Edmonton, third Sally Korol of Edmonton and lead Lynda Taylor of Stony Plain from the 2009 world championship team that beat the United States in the final to finish 5-0 at the inaugural event in Winnipeg.
“They have a lot of experience with the Deaflympics and worlds and national championship. I feel real good with their strong curling background,” Kurylowich said in an e-mail.
The Jasper Place rink qualified for the Feb. 23 to March 2 worlds in Bern, Switzerland by going 8-0 at the 33rd annual Canadian Deaf Curling Championships last May at their home club.
“My team is very excited,” Kurylowich said. “It will be a great experience to be in a different country and compete in our favourite sport and meet new international deaf athletes.”
Canada plays Croatia, Hungary, Russia and the Ukraine in the round robin. The top four teams make the playoffs.
“They know if they just play their game they will be fine,” said coach Diana Backer of St. Albert. “I’m really proud of them. They’re doing really well. They’ve been throwing lots and their communication has been great. I can see the progression from two years ago when I started coaching them. I’ve noticed a big improvement with their communication, the judging of the weight and the confidence in their abilities because each of them have the ability. And if one person misses, it’s OK. It’s not a big deal. They just keep going.”
Kurylowich played third and Taylor was the second on Robertson’s rink that qualified for the 2011 Deaflympics by finishing first at 5-1 at the 2010 nationals in Richmond, B.C.
However, the host committee for the International Silent Games in Vysoke Tatry, Slovakia cancelled the competition over a lack of payments to complete key venues. The curlers were informed of the decision while flying to Montreal, en route to Bratislava for a week of preparation before the Deaflympics. It was the first time the Deaflympics were cancelled since the event was founded in 1949.
Robertson, Korol and Taylor also curled together at the 2007 Deaflympics in Salt Lake City and won gold for Canada.
Deaf curlers play the game the same way as those who are not hearing impaired and communicate using American Sign Language and facial expressions.
“They know each other and that really helps,” Backer said. “They’re also great to curl against and really lovely people.”
Last weekend Team Canada competed in a Stony Plain bonspiel in preparation for worlds.
“Playing four games in 24 hours helped us prepare mentally and physically. We won two games and lost two games, but it made the team bond for worlds,” Kurylowich said.
Backer said the feedback from the bonspiel was positive.
“One of the ladies that curls (in the senior 50-plus Alberta championship this weekend at the Granite) said she played them and told me, ‘I just want to let you know I’m really impressed by your team,’ so that was awesome,” said the second for the St. Albert-based Deb Santos rink at provincials.
In the Wednesday night Jasper Place league Team Canada was ranked fourth out of five teams in the A section.
“They’ve had some tight games, maybe a miss here and there, but they’ve learned from it,” Backer said.
Kurylowich described league games as a lot of practice with game strategy.
“We are lucky to be in a great curling club that supports us and encourages us for the big event,” said the Puerto Rico-born Kurylowich, who was introduced to the sport by Robertson in 1999.
It’s been a busy winter for the mother of two.
“I’ve been practicing a lot more, three times a week including (league) games and we’ve had two bonspiels. I’m also very focused on my health for curling,” Kurylowich said. “My commitment to curling has paid off. I’m at a national level (and) I’m very proud to be a Canadian.”
Kurylowich, 37, works for the Connect Society Family Literacy and Early Intervention Program. She and her two younger brothers were born profoundly deaf to deaf parents.
The following quotation from an unknown author inspired Kurylowich to live life to the fullest.
“Be proud of yourself, show people who you are and do not allow them to push you down. If they do, they have no knowledge of beauty life in the deaf world.”
HOG LINES: Backer’s team at provincials – third Jackie Rae-Greening, lead Glenna Rubin and Santos, a former Alberta women’s champion – was tied for first place with Diane Foster at 4-0 after Thursday’s draw in the eight-team competition.
If there are no tiebreakers, the women’s semifinal is 7 p.m. tonight or 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The final is 2 p.m. Sunday.
Nationals are March 16 to 24 in Summerside, P.E.I.
Visit www.curlingprovincials.com for results.