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Deaf curlers rock at nationals

Nyla Kurylowich of St. Albert and the rest of Team Alberta are halfway towards qualifying for worlds after three wins at the 33rd annual Canadian Deaf Curling Championships.

Nyla Kurylowich of St. Albert and the rest of Team Alberta are halfway towards qualifying for worlds after three wins at the 33rd annual Canadian Deaf Curling Championships.

Going into Tuesday’s draw Alberta had defeated British Columbia, Manitoba and an interprovincial rink from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan in the women’s four-team double round-robin bonspiel at the Jasper Place Curling Club.

The winner will represent Canada at the 18th Winter Deaflympics in Bern, Switzerland in February of 2013.

“Worlds has motivated us. We hope we’re the best team so we can represent Canada,” Kurylowich said. “We all love being in competitions – league, national and international. We always enjoy playing together as we have a great bond.”

Kurylowich, 36, throws second rocks for skip Judy Robertson of Edmonton. The third, Sally Korol, is also from Edmonton. The lead, Lynda Taylor, lives in Stony Plain and the alternate is Victoria Meusel of Olds.

Deaf curlers play the game the same way as those who are not hearing impaired, they just communicate differently.

“We can’t hear at all. It’s total silence,” Kurylowich said. “We strongly use American sign language and facial expression when we play.”

St. Albert curler Diana Backer is the team’s coach. Backer qualified for her third Dominion Club provincial curling championship in four years as the skip for the women’s entry from the Granite.

“We are very lucky to have a wonderful coach in Diana. She helps all of us improve to become a better team,” Kurylowich said.

In league play at Jasper Place the provincial reps finished tied for top spot in the A side on Wednesdays.

“It felt so good to show that a deaf team can play the same as a hearing team,” Kurylowich said. “I love the Jasper Place Curling Club. They treat us really well and we have so much fun competing against good teams.”

The line-up of Robertson, Kurylowich at third, Taylor at second, lead Arista Haas of Edmonton and alternate Debbie Sutton of Airdrie qualified for last year’s Deaflympics by finishing first at 5-1 at the 2010 nationals in Richmond, B.C.

Unfortunately they were unable to compete at the International Silent Games when the host committee in Vysoke Tatry, Slovakia cancelled the event over a lack of payments to complete key venues.

The news broke while the curlers were flying to Montreal, en route to Bratislavia for a week of preparation prior to the Deaflympics.

It was the first time they were cancelled since the event was founded in 1949.

“I have forgotten about that sad time of the cancellation and think about today and tomorrow. No point to think about the past,” Kurylowich said. “The team sticks together no matter the ups and downs and the cancellation made us focus on one game at a time, enjoy the game and have fun.”

Kurylowich is back at second for nationals after filling in at third with Korol on maternity leave.

Robertson, Korol, Taylor and Sutton also curled at the 2007 Deaflympics in Salt Lake City and won gold for Canada.

Robertson introduced Kurylowich to the sport 1999.

“I love curling,” said Kurylowich, who hails from Puerto Rico.

Kurylowich and her three younger brothers were born profoundly deaf to deaf parents. The graduate of the Alberta School for the Deaf in Edmonton is married with two kids and works at the Connect Society Playschool.

She was inspired to live life to the fullest by the following quotation from an unknown author.

“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: The last game at nationals for Alberta is Thursday at 9 a.m. against Manitoba.

Six rinks are competing in the men’s division. The final goes Friday at 7 p.m., followed by the medal presentations.

Visit for draw times and results.

Jeff Hansen

About the Author: Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.
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