Winning a Canadian curling championship of any kind, anywhere, is a special experience.
But doing it in your home province, with friends, families and enthusiastic fans cheering your every move — and doing it without a loss, to boot?
That’s rarefied air, indeed, and it’s now occupied by Quebec’s Jean-Sébastien Roy and his teammates following a 6-5 win over New Brunswick’s Grant Odishaw in the gold-medal game of the 2020 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship Saturday in Saguenay, Que.
Roy’s team from the des Collines and Etchemin Curling Clubs — vice-skip Amélie Blais, second Dan deWaard and lead Brenda Nichols — capped a perfect 12-victory run through the mixed nationals, and gave Quebec just its second gold medal since the event’s inception in 1964; Jean-Michel Ménard was the other Quebec winner, in 2001 at Weyburn, Sask.
“It feels so amazing, winning in my hometown,” said the 42-year-old Roy, a longtime resident of Saguenay. “It was a crazy week, and I am so happy. The crowd was amazing; we just tried to play our best and focus on playing the right rock at the right moment. Everything rolled right for us this week.”
Quebec broke open what had been a tight game with a count of three in the sixth end to make it 6-2; New Brunswick was going hard for the steal, but ultimately Roy was left with an inturn draw to the four-foot to score the three and take control.
But Quebec had the momentum most of the game after a shaky start in the first. Roy missed his first shot of the game when his rock caught some debris, but he came back with a runback double takeout to score a single and settle the nerves.
The teams then traded single points before Quebec applied more pressure in the fourth end, resulting in a key steal of one when Odishaw was light on his draw following another clutch double takeout by Roy.
New Brunswick was forced to the single in the fifth, setting the stage for the big Quebec sixth end.
“I had to play a difficult double in the first end, but like said, everything was rolling for us,” said Roy. “It was a big double again in the fourth end. Just a great week — I have no words.”
New Brunswick (Odishaw was backed up by vice-skip Sylvie Quillian, second Marc Lecocq and lead Jane Boyle) fell short in its bid for a third Canadian mixed title, and a second for Odishaw, who captured gold in 1994 at Leduc, Alta. Boyle also was going for a second gold medal; she was member of the New Brunswick team that won in 2007 at Kitchener, Ont., skipped by Odishaw’s brother Terry.
Blais, meanwhile, was able to get to the top step of the medal podium after winning silver two years ago in Swan River, Man. Playing vice-skip for Robert Desjardins, Quebec went unbeaten entering that championship game, only to fall short to Ontario’s Mike Anderson.
The Quebec team will wear the Maple Leaf at the 2020 World Mixed Championship next October (dates, location to be announced by the World Curling Federation). Team Canada will be looking for a third consecutive gold medal, following the win by Anderson in 2018 in Kelowna, B.C., and Colin Kurz’s Manitoba team last month in Aberdeen, Scotland.
“Oh, that’s going to be amazing,” said Blais. “It’s a dream come true for me, being able to represent our country. This was my 10th national championship (appearance) this week, so this is like a big cherry on the sundae.”
In the bronze-medal game, Jamie Koe’s Northwest Territories team from Yellowknife (vice-skip and twin sister Kerry Galusha, second David Aho, lead Megan Koehler) prevailed 7-5 over Manitoba’s Corey Chambers team from Miami (vice-skip Lisa McLeod, second Nigel Milnes, lead Jolene Callum).
In the semifinals earlier on Saturday, Quebec was an 8-5 winner over Manitoba, while New Brunswick prevailed 7-6 over the Northwest Territories.
Text by: Al Cameron, Curling Canada