Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω
The conclusion of the CIS-CCA National Curling Championship and the successful performance of TRU’s men’s team has led to questions about the future of curling as a university sport at TRU.
TRU organized a men’s and women’s team in September for the purpose of hosting nationals and at the time the future of the program beyond the event was largely left undecided. According to Linda Bolton, event chair for the bonspiel and former Kamloops Curling Club president, TRU Athletics was behind bringing nationals to Kamloops and was open to the idea of discussing a future for the program.
“We approached Ken and his team and presented the idea and he was all for it, went behind it 100 per cent,” Bolton said. “He was diplomatic, about seeing the sponsorship and seeing how strong curling is, but he thinks it’s a possibility of something to present to the athletics board to move forward. So I’m very excited that it may happen and continue to happen.”
Darren Nelson, who skipped his team to a bronze medal this weekend, hoped that the weekend’s event would bring enough attention and publicity that a future for curling at TRU would be considered. Though Nelson and his team had great results in the bonspiel, he also had feedback about the way the team was put together.
“Hopefully we cause TRU to take a deeper look at having a curling team, considering this year they kind of threw one together and there wasn’t a lot of thought or support put in,” Nelson said. “Hopefully they see the result — that we could get a medal with that — maybe they can start a curling team and give them a little bit more support and see what they can really do.”
Future generations of TRU students have waited to hear about the long-term future of the program as well. Corryn Brown, skip for Canada at the World Junior Curling Championships in Sochi, Russia earlier this month, is from Kamloops and plans to attend TRU in 2013-14. Her teammates Erin Pincott and Samantha Fisher will also be TRU students.
“I really hope that curling becomes a permanent team [at TRU] because curling isn’t always perceived as a sport,” Brown said. “If it was put in the ranks of basketball or volleyball, spectators would appreciate the sport a lot more. I hope having this national event here in Kamloops has opened the eyes of not only TRU but also other universities to get more involved in curling and supply more opportunities in the sport.”
Brown says that if TRU doesn’t have a university-level team it won’t necessarily hurt her development, but her team will be forced to put more emphasis on junior curling; they won’t have the added benefit of playing at both the university and junior levels. Brown says that her team would benefit from added exposure to high-calibre events if she were to play at the university level.
The appetite exists on a number of fronts for a curling program to start up at TRU, except for with those who matter. Currently, athletics has no intention of continuing to support curling as a university sport at TRU. Athletics director Ken Olynyk cited a number of reasons for this decision but funding was a central issue. Though it’s not currently in the works, Olynyk said a team funded by the Kamloops Curling Club and supported by athletics is likely the only scenario that could be considered.
“I would be willing to have those discussions but I wouldn’t make any commitment though on behalf of the university,” Olynyk said. “At this juncture we aren’t entertaining adding a curling team.”
Coming off the high of a podium finish at this year’s nationals, it’s a disappointing development for Kamloops-based curlers, who have been vocal about the city’s ability to support a permanent university-level program. It begs the question, if a top-three finish at a national event isn’t enough to sway the university to create a permanent university-level program, what will be?