Young curlers based at Juan de Fuca Curling Centre are eyeing gold as they represent Vancouver Island and the coast at the B.C. Winter Games in Mission this weekend.
The girls, known as Team Tinkler, and the boys, Team Cassidy, will compete against B.C.’s best teen curlers in round robin play. Despite their young ages, both squads have plenty of experience in the house.
This is Sydney Brilz’s second time curling at the Winter Games. The 16-year-old Belmont secondary student won silver in Vernon in 2012, just her second season in the sport.
“It’s pretty competitive. It’s a different dynamic (than provincials),” she says of the Games atmosphere. “You stay in the same room as the people you are competing against. You get to know teams really good, they become good friends, but … you want to win. You kind of switch gears (on the ice). There’s no friendship, you just play.”
The rink’s skip, Bailey Tinkler, a 17-year-old Spectrum Community School student, is also joined by Colquitz middle schooler Julia Kresse, 14, and Jordan Koster, 16, from Courtenay in representing Zone 6.
Like many young curlers, Tinkler first stepped on the pebbled ice after watching her parents and siblings play. That was seven years ago.
“It’s been in my family for a long time,” she says. “My brother and sister had a big influence on me and I wanted to get out there and try it. I like the strategy of the game. And you definitely learn about yourself on the ice.”
Tinkler says she’s looking forward to the Games, adding it’s been a goal of hers to achieve this. “It’s exciting.”
The boys rink is skipped by Ryan Cassidy, a 15 year old with seven years’ experience on the ice. He is still runner-up in terms of experience on the foursome. Alexander Horvath, 15, began pushing rocks at age 4.
Both Belmont students, they competed at junior nationals in January as part of Cameron De Jong’s 2014 B.C. junior men’s championship-winning rink.
Horvath says winning the Zone 6 berth for B.C. Winter Games wasn’t tough, but they expect heavy competition for gold at the Mission Curling Club.
Scott Gray and Derek Chandler, both 15, round out the team, which has been practising five days per week at Juan de Fuca.
“It’s a strategic game, like chess. You have to think ahead, think about what your opponent is going to do before they do it,” Horvath says.
Coach Julie Semenchuk said the boys have a good chance at the gold if they stay focused on the game, while having fun.
“I make sure they are acting like a team, communicating like a team,” she says. “If they aren’t being a team, they lose bits and pieces of the game. I give them a friendly reminder to be good and to have fun.”
The B.C. Winter Games run today (Feb. 21) through Sunday. Follow results at http://www.bit.ly/Mb9Zzm.