I always swore that when I decide to hang up my curling shoes, I won’t do some sappy Facebook/Twitter post announcing it to the world; I’ll just quietly exit, stage right. But I kind of feel the need to share some news as we head into the start of what will hopefully be a more conventional and social curling season:
Once the Olympic Trials are done for this year, I will be stepping back from competitive curling.
I was getting to the point in my career where I’ve started to notice the game passing me by. I am 49, about to turn 50, and as much as I have tried to stay in shape and keep my game up to the level of the some of the best curlers in the world, it gets a bit harder, year after year.
Covid has not helped; I have not thrown a curling rock since the 2021 Brier, and find myself having to remember how to get my not-so-flexible legs to tuck back into the curling slide. The sad and inescapable truth is the amount of practice I need to do to be able to make the shots I need to make is now beyond the time and energy I have to give.
And, as I often pointed out, sometimes life can get in the way of curling. I have taken on a new role at my “day job” that will require me to relocate to Toronto (or “The Six” as the cool kids call it) and spend a bit more of my energy at work. It was probably already time to step away gracefully, but the combination of Covid and work have made the decision to retire that much easier. Therefore, once our Olympic quest comes to an end—which will ideally be after closing ceremonies in Beijing early next year!—I will step back from the game I love.
I will miss it dearly. I will miss that excitement you feel when competing at a high level. I will miss playing down for the Brier, still one of the greatest sports traditions on the planet. I will miss that satisfying feeling of sitting down for a postgame rye and coke, knowing that you just competed against the best in the world. Most of all, I will miss my team.
I am incredibly proud of how this team has grown over the past years, from starting with Felix and Will five years ago, then adding Ben and JF and now Martin. There are times, rare times, in sport when a team becomes more than just a collection of guys playing the game. It becomes something indescribable, a bond towards a common purpose that unifies in way that nothing else can. This team is that. #feedthehorses
So what does this mean for Team Fournier?
Well, I will leave it up to them to tell you. But Team Fournier will live on for at least a couple more months. As a result of our national ranking pre-Covid, we have been invited to play at the Olympic Pre-Trials, which will be held October 26-31 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. 14 teams will play down for the final two spots in the Olympic Trials to be held in Saskatchewan in late November. Then the winner heads to Beijing 2022 wearing the maple leaf.
If the Pre-Trials/Trials is to be my last big men’s competitive run, I can think of no better way to go out. The Canadian Olympic Trials are the pinnacle of the sport. I would argue it is harder to win the Canadian Olympic Trials than it is to win the Olympics. I absolutely cannot wait to get back on the ice to work towards October.
My recent decision to step back has left me rather reflective on the past 30 years of competitive curling. I have borne witness to so many changes in the game, from the introduction of the free guard rule (thank God!) to the inclusion of the sport in the Olympics, to the directional sweeping era where we all faced the bizarre notion that we had been sweeping wrong for the past 50 years. The game is barely recognizable from when I started out three decades ago.
The highlights are many. Obviously going to the Brier in 2018 and 2021 top the list, and especially winning the Quebec championship at Glenmore takes the top spot.
But I can’t help but to think back to how much fun it was just to even make it to Quebec provincials when I started out. I think I was two years out of juniors when I qualified A-side out of Montreal, where we were one of four teams out of 80 or 90. It was different time.
And so many of my best memories will come from playing in obscure cashspiels in small towns. The tour was fun, and every spiel was an adventure.
Anyway—more to come. My imminent retirement will surely not mean the end of these posts. I might not be writing as an insider anymore, but it will be much more fun to write about the big teams without having to worry about them reading it before playing me!