Wednesday, 23 March 2016

#BetweenTheSheets: Little Rock Slides Into Speedy Creek
One rock's experience at the 2016 Women's World Curling Championship

What a time to be alive!  The weather outside is beautiful.  Easter is right around the corner.  And the Women's World Curling Championships kicked off in Swift Current, SK this past weekend.  Hopefully you have been able to take in the excitement of the action on the ice, whether in person, on TV or online.  I happened to be lucky enough to go to Swift Current and take in the opening weekend festivities and draws (thanks to Curling Canada of course!).

Being born as one of many in a large rock household named CurlingHats, I never imagined the day where I would be actually be this close to the role model rocks I see on television every week.  Those massive, strong pieces of granite flying down the ice end after end....I watch in amazement (and jealousy perhaps).  I may be known as Little Rock but I certainly had some Big Rock experiences last weekend.  The #TwineTime blog seemed to be the perfect outlet to share my story....

Day 1 - Friday March 18

I have arrived in the City of Swift Current.  Did you know their city motto is "Where Life Makes Sense".  Maybe it is here that I will truly discover how my life, as Little Rock, makes sense in the large realm of #curling.  The drive here was a long one....I sat in a passenger seat watching, from what I could tell, large empty blue sky just travel by the window.  In the "Land of the Living Skies", on this day anyway, they seemed to be having a nap.  I guess it is Friday after all, right?

The excitement built as we pulled into the parking lot of this huge building (again perspective my friends...I am named Little Rock for a reason) named Credit Union iPlex.  I am told this is actually a hockey arena.  I don't get much ego.  My friend Puck is always talking about how strong he is and how guys take him home after he flys into a net or pulls a skydiver move over the boards.  He even sometimes brags about hitting people.  I like curling better.  Us rocks don't want to hurt anyone.  And we certainly are afraid of won't see any of us flying around the arena.

Anyways, I finally found my seat and watched my role models Red and Yellow get their pre-event workout in.  Many of the teams had a practice scheduled tonight.  I was a bit jealous watching Red and Yellow get so much hand to rock time with some of these amazing athletes, like Chelsea Carey, Eve Muirhead and Binia Feltscher.  Of course, I cannot forget about Anna Sidorova.  She looks like she has very soft and delicate hands.  I know she wouldn't be rough or mean to my handle...and I appreciate that in a curler.  We have feelings too you know?!

It was a relatively quiet day though.  I became more familiar with the arena, met some nice volunteers and just prepared myself for the next two and a half days of excitement.  Ah Red and Yellow, you sure have all the fun though.

Day 2 - Saturday March 19

Today is the day!  Day 1.  Opening Ceremonies.  Opening Draws.  My friends Red and Yellow will be in full competition mode.  They looked so professional during the Opening Ceremonies too.  All lined up perfectly.  They look like they were given first class spa treatment too....all shiny and new looking.  Hmmm, I will have to try and find out who does their washing.  This rock could get used to that kind of living one day!

I will be sitting up in this "Media Area" watching.  I have to say I have a great view from up here.  Even though I am small in height, I can actually see lots of the action on the ice from my seat.  Curling Canada even took a seat next to me...I was in awe.  They are so kind...letting me, Little Rock, sit up here with them and feel part of the collective team.  It was a lot of emotion to take in for me.

Before the opening draw, I went into this other huge space known to many as The Patch.  Wow, lots of people in here.  Lots of interesting attire these people wear to curling events too.  I saw a lot of people dressed in red and white, which would make sense being in Canada after all.  But it wasn't just red and white for Canada.  I saw people supporting Switzerland and Denmark too.  Both of those countries are red and white as well.  Surprised a little stone like me has such worldly knowledge?  I met some amazing people too.  One guy had the most amazing beard, which he coloured in red and white to support Team Canada.  He did the same with his hair...but I think that was just a hat.  I will stay away from hat judgement...I might be a bit biased after all.  In speaking with him and his wife, they have travelled all over the world to cheer on my friends Red and Yellow.  They have been to men's and women's world championships, Brier's, Scotties....everywhere.  Red and Yellow have some of the best fans I think!  The big moment came though a few moments later.  Team Sweden was doing autographs with people and I actually had the chance to get on the table and have each member of the team sign me.  How cool is that?  They were also super me compliments on how light I was (I have been losing weight and trying to stay slim before this event of course).  We even took some pictures...unfortunately mine was blurry. :(  The memory still matters though, right?

After hanging out with mighty Sweden, I had to rush back into the arena....almost time for the Opening Draw.  I had an up close seat for Canada vs. Denmark.  Everyone seemed to be fixated on Red and Yellow in this game so I thought I would do the same.  I did make sure to watch all my other friends on the other sheets many great rocks out there helping to make these teams look great.  The Canada - Denmark game was crazy.  Yellow seemed to be the stronger rock all game but Red was just patiently waiting to unleash it's potential late in the game...then all of a sudden #BOOM...Red ends up owning the house for 3 in the 9th end and score again in the extra end for a win.  So much excitement!  When the final rock settled for the opening draw, Red would end up winning 3 of the 4 games.  Poor Yellow!

Before the event I remember Red and Yellow telling me about how excited they were to work with Team Canada because they were the home country and they both knew all the fans would be watching them and cheering for them.  I also remember Red telling me to try and listen for this "Trust It" quote from Team Canada second Jocelyn Peterman.  I don't know much about "Trust It", does she mean Red rock?  Trust Red rock?  Naw she must mean the ice.  We rocks are always trustworthy...but that ice!  Now he is always trying to throw slick spots and dry spots and wet spots and dead spots at us all game.  If you want to know who my rival's Mr. Ice!  Anyway, after the Canada win I actually met Jocelyn and we talked about this "Trust It" comment.  She laughed and then actually wrote on me "#TrustIt".  Hahaha...she is a funny one.  Take that Mr. Ice!!!

In between draws it seems most people go back to this Patch place to talk and drink.  Seemed like a fun idea so I just followed the crowd and slid right in.  And you will never guess who I slid into?  Team Switzerland!!  Skip Binia Feltscher is a former world champion you know?!  I couldn't pass up this opportunity.  I had to get on that table and meet this team.  Similar to Sweden, they offered me many compliments.  Again on my weight...always nice to hear.  Vice Irene Schori even picked me up and pretended to curl with me...and then tried to take me home I think?  She was funny.  I also was able to get my picture taken with the team after.  Guess what happened then?  2014 World Champion Binia Feltscher actually put me on her head!  Yup, that really happened...a world champion let me be her hat for a picture.  What a compliment!  What a moment!  Yeah, I really like this team :)  They were fun.

After eating some Swiss chocolate courtesy of my new best friends, back into the arena I went to watch Draw 2.  Lots of great teams on the ice supporting Red and Yellow tonight.  I watched Team Germany (hopefully I can meet up with them later too), Korea, Scotland, Russia, Finland, Japan, Italy....and of course my friends from Sweden.  I didn't really know who to cheer for...I just wanted Red and Yellow to both have great games and not let Mr. Ice mess them up too bad.  Red and Yellow were on point, for the most part.  Sheet A Red struggled (Italy) and Sheet D Yellow (Finland) had a few issues but overall great job by both of my idols.  This draw would be a split with Red and Yellow both picking up 2 wins.

What a day...and this was only Day 1?  I hope Red and Yellow get some good sleep tonight...they are in for a long week!!  As for me, I quietly tucked myself into bed at my hotel excited over meeting some great athletes today and anxious to see what tomorrow brings!

Day 3 - Sunday March 20

My first morning draw.  Ewww...I don't like it.  I'm still tired.  My handle hurts a bit and wants to go back under the covers at the hotel and sleep.  But I am here.  I am Little Rock and I am here to maximize my experience and have as much fun as possible.  I actually even got to the arena early just to watch Red and Yellow get prepared on the ice.  They are lined up perfectly as always....seriously, what amazing role models for a small stone such as myself.  I also watched Mr. Ice take a bit of a shower and get cleaned up ahead of the games.  He better be in a good mood this morning....Red and Yellow don't need any hassle from him!

More red and white in the house this morning too with Canada, Switzerland and Denmark all on the ice again.  Canada is playing Switzerland....I am torn on who to cheer for.  Those Swiss girls were so fun and nice to me yesterday...but Canada is friendly too.  Both teams seem to be very kind to Red and Yellow too.  I will just have to cheer for both and hope they have a good game.  Plus I need coffee....

After two great morning games with Canada besting Switzerland and Denmark defeating USA (both wins for Red), you know where I was going right?  I am a full on #wwcc2016 vet to The Patch.  You know, it was only lunch time but this place was packed again.  These people in Swift Current sure enjoy a good party.  This was also another monumental Patch moment for me....inside this afternoon was Team USA.  You know the routine here my friends.  I hopped on that table and said my hello to my American friends.  They were just coming off a tough loss but you couldn't tell with their attitude and personality.  They were very friendly and talkative.  We even talked about #MarchMadness.  My friend, Mr. TwineTime, went to Oregon so he talked with them about cheering for the Ducks.  I was too busy getting my autographs and enjoying the up close and personal meet and greet.  Before Team USA headed away for lunch, I was able to grab a picture with them as well.  These teams are just so friendly and nice to fans.  Taking pictures, signing autographs...all while playing for a world title.  Again, this is what makes my sport of curling so special I think.

The afternoon draw went smooth and Red and Yellow seemed to be sliding down the ice nice across all sheets.  Mr. Ice seems to be in a good mode so far today, so that helps.  He can get moody like I mentioned before but a good shower before each draw does make him a bit more happy.  The afternoon draw saw Russia suffer their first loss, dropping a game to Japan.  Red would continue to dominate though, winning 3 of 4.  Yellow did bring luck to Germany though in their win over Sweden.

The draw tonight was really the excitement.  Any time Canada and USA play off, we rocks know we need to be on our best behaviour.  Unfortunately, even we have bad days you know.  We aren't perfect!  My friend Yellow was not feeling great tonight.  Yellow has a slight moment during warm up's but, after some massaging and relaxing, seemed to be feeling better as the game started.  It wouldn't last long though.  Maybe the stress of the big moment got to Yellow.  All the eyes.  All the TV lights.  Maybe Canada vice Amy Nixon gripped Yellow in a wrong way?  I just don't know...but I know the drama sure hit the ice and Yellow was the centre of the controversy.  As you probably know, once you move up the rock ladder of success and actually make it to the big ice in competitions like this, you need to get upgraded.  Think of it like getting a tattoo of sorts.  We need to have mechanical tops added.  Batteries and flashing lights and's quite confusing to be honest.  Sometimes I wonder if maybe I don't want to ever be that kind of superstar rock and should be happy to be the softer, lighter, hat kind of rock every day.  Yellow sure went through the negative press in this game.  Nixon yelled at Yellow.  Carey kicked Yellow.  Brown was confused by Yellow.  Everyone had something to say about poor Yellow in this game.  Luckily the officials were able to talk to Yellow, talk Yellow down from the obvious emotional state Yellow was going through and get Yellow back on the ice for the rest of the game.  Yellow was much better the second half of the game and the problems seemed to go away.  Yellow never did recover from the bad start to the game and Red was perfect on this night.  It was a short game and didn't really live up to the hype unfortunately.  I think Yellow was just happy to have the game end by the time all was said and done.  But wow people continued to talk about poor Yellow all night...during and after the game ended.  I felt bad for Yellow.  Overall though, Yellow and Red would split the wins again tonight.

After the games ended, I stuck around a bit to see what Red and Yellow do to relax.  And you know what?  Even after all the games are over for the day...they don't get to relax at all.  Coaches and alternate players come out and practice with them again.  Red and Yellow, on each sheet of ice, just finished 3 draws today and here they are still being thrown down Mr. Ice and being judged and scrutinized.  Can't we just let resting stones lay?  Really starting to re-think wanting to ever be on the ice now!

As I leave the arena ice behind, feeling sad about my friends Red and Yellow not being able to relax and enjoy some quiet time to themselves, I find myself following a crowd of people.  A large crowd of people.  A long line of people actually.  Where does this line go?  Ahhh...of course....where else would this go but straight into The Patch.  It is Sunday night and yet, once again, the crowds are heading into the cozy confines of The Patch to enjoy a few cold ones after sitting next to the cold ice.  These people sure like things that are cold and associated with ice....we must be in Canada!  For a Sunday night, the crowd was actually very lively.  Live music, cold drinks and fun people tend to do that though I am slowly learning.  This could be a late night....

DAY 4 - Monday March 21

Another early morning draw.  Today is a bit bittersweet.  This draw is my last one of the event.  Once the morning draw is over I have to head back in the car for a long drive home.  I woke up a bit sad to be honest.  I have been having so much fun meeting new people and talking about a sport I have so much passion for.  My last draw would be full of teams I have met and enjoyed talking to, namely Switzerland, Canada and USA.  I have also had some brief encounters and conversations with Finland and Japan.  Japan's coach, JD Lind, is really friendly as well by the way.  This morning would bring some drama to the event as well when Russia beat Canada and Denmark beat Japan.  No more undefeated teams now....the plot thickens.  Red seemed to reign supreme this morning, winning 3 of the 4 games.  The only Red to lose oddly was Canada.  As my 6 draws of action come to a close, my Red idol seems to be dominating the head to head with Yellow.  Red has now won 15 of the 22 games, an amazing 68% winning record.  Again....poor Yellow!

As I was packing up and getting ready to prepare for the long drive amazing moment happened.  Team Germany, who I have been trying to meet all weekend, came walking through the empty stands waving at me.  Me?  No lie!  They were excited to meet me, Little Rock.  Can you imagine?  They loved my slim figure or easy to grip handle.  I love compliments from beautiful women!  They even signed me as well and we took a group picture.  What a great moment!  I was so excited to meet them.  They may be making a move up the table in my list of favorite teams.  They didn't even play in the morning draw, needed to prepare for their afternoon draw, yet here they were willing to take time out to say hi and take a picture with me.  I felt so honoured.  I couldn't thank them enough and wished them the best of luck for the rest of the week....also saying how sad I was that I wouldn't be here to watch them.

But friends, you would think the excitement would end there right?  Nope!  As I was getting ready to walk out of the building for the last time guess who was standing by the door?  Team Denmark!  Well, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.  They did just defeat Japan after all.  I quickly met them and talked to the team for a bit, talking about their outstanding game they had just won.  They also signed Denmark red even!  We even took a team picture together.  Again, these ladies just came off the ice with a huge win and were about to head out for a celebratory lunch and here they were stopping to chat with me.  Little Rock strikes again!  I always hear people complain about athletes never giving back to taking time for fans but this is not the case with curlers I found this weekend.  Talking with Team Denmark and getting a picture before I said my goodbye's to the Women's World Curling Championship was a perfect cherry on top of the sundae...a nice bright red cherry too of course!

The volunteers have been awesome.  Curling Canada has been amazing.  The athletes have been very friendly and accommodating to talk to and (in my case) even get some pictures and autographs.  And...most importantly....Red and Yellow continue to show the world how important we rocks are for this sport.  We get gripped too hard by some...too light by others.  We are thrown too fast by a few....and not fast enough by many.  We get kicked.  We get hit with brooms.  We get blamed.  We fight with Mr. Ice.  Seriously, a curling stone's life is not for everyone let me tell you.  But Red and Yellow, at least so far, have been outstanding role models for all the Little Rocks out there.

I commented in my first diary entry how Swift Current is "Where Life Makes Sense" and I think my time here has actually helped me figure out my role.  I will never be a big time stone like Red and Yellow.  I will never be at the front of limelight or have people take pictures of me.  And I am ok with that.  I like being Little Rock.  I like sitting back and watching the show go on in front of me.  I have no pressure on me.  Sure I am not well-known and "famous" but who needs fame?  I met some amazing people this week.  I talked with some great athletes from across the world.  I even had them remember me.  Do you know how cool it is to see Team Sweden or Team Switzerland a day or two later and have them say "it's mister rock" and say "hello" and "how are you?" to me?  If that is the life of Little Rock, not huge fame but still a stone people remember and talk to and have positive things to say about....then I would say my life does make sense and that does make me happy.

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone...and please be kind to Red and Yellow.  They are doing their best after all!  Always be mean to Mr. Ice though, ok?  Just Kidding Mr. Ice...I love you too...sometimes...barely :)

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