WINNIPEG — From the Olympics, to a backyard curling rink in West St. Paul — Jill Officer can compete in any setting.
The gold medallist, who plays second on Team Canada’s Jennifer Jones women’s curling squad, made an appearance on Saturday at a backyard curling bonspiel organized by a Winnipeg radio personality.
Dave Wheeler of 92 CITI FM held the first annual Wheeler Bonspiel on his 46-foot homemade rink. Originally designed for his young son, Angus, to play hockey, it was quickly converted once the Winnipeg team captured gold at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics last month.
“I just got really excited. I thought I’m going to throw a bonspiel for my buddies and it turned out it was coldest day of the year,” Wheeler said. “We weren’t quitting, we thought we’d give it a go.”
The circles were painted a few hours before the first rock was thrown, freezing almost instantly under wind chills hovering around the -38°C mark. What also froze was the can of beer in Wheeler’s left hand as he threw makeshift stones with the other. And while he didn’t enlist the help of professional icemaker Hans Wuthrich to create his pebbled sheet surface — a garden hose, shovel and a crafty blueprint is all that was needed.
“It’s actually hard on the muscles,” Officer said of the bitterly cold conditions. “I’ve always said that cold curling clubs is hard on the muscles, and it’s a little harder to actually feel comfortable when you’re curling, so this is really extreme and it’s really hard to have any sort of good form.”
Putting correct playing form and other technicalities of the game aside for the fun event, the bonspiel held four ends rotating through a group of about 15 players who threw frozen buckets of ice to mimic rocks. Officer made it to the finals having to draw to the button on her last shot, but came up short.
“We’re just really happy to be home and proud that we were able to bring home the gold medal,” Officer added, noting she and her teammates are still wading through a backlog of e-mails from well-wishers ever since returning last Monday.
So, will there be a second annual Wheeler Bonspiel? You bet. Wheeler says they’re going to be doing it every year, on the coldest day of the year. Bundle up, curlers!