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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

#BetweenTheSheets with Ryan Sherrard
Canadian-born, German curling champ talks junior pressure, German curling and #TheHat

The #TwineTime blog continues to add an international flavour to the family this year rock heads and stoners.  But this time, our newest member is a bit unique.  No, I am talking about his awesome facial reactions in pictures, like the one shown above, but rather the story of why this Canadian is considered an International.

When this blog found out he was going to Edmonton to partake in the 2017 Ford World Men's Curling Championships as a member of #TeamMedia, the curling stones started spinning.  Curlers from all over the world vying for a world title....curlers fighting to earn their nation a spot in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics....curlers trying to gain some momentum to help #growthesport back home.  The plot lines were thick and abundant.  But I wanted to also seize the opportunity and really bring home something special.

Enter the lead for the German champions: Ryan Sherrard.  I have been a fan of Sherrard's since his Canadian junior championship run.  When this blog noticed him back hitting the ice this season, it was a special moment.  I reached out to him on twitter offering my congrats on returning to the game and wishing him all the best, hoping our paths may actually cross this season.  Well, 8 months later here we were.  Both in Edmonton.  One competing on the ice.  One sitting on media row.  Both getting a first experience in one way or another.
I am excited to welcome Ryan Sherrard to the #TwineTime family.  Some of you may know his story.  Some of you may not.  Either way, all of you hopefully will love this interview as much as I did.  Let's meet Ryan Sherrard:

TwineTime (TT):  Welcome Ryan Sherrard, the newest member of the #TwineTime blog family.

Ryan Sherrard (RS):  Whooohoooo!!!

TT:  You are the second men's world championship participant to join the blog family.

RS:  Who was the first?

TT:  That would be Mr. Niklas Edin.  So you are following in some big footsteps here.  No pressure but don't mess this up *laughing*

RS:  *laughing*  Ok, I will do my best.

TT:  You are here in Edmonton representing Germany at the world championships but before we dive into that, let's rewind the clock a bit and go backwards in time.  You are a former Canadian junior curling champion.  One of only 3 skips from New Brunswick to win a Canadian junior title.  What was it like playing for New Brunswick and coming out of the province, one not know as a traditional curling powerhouse?  How much did it mean to you to curl out of New Brunswick and win a national championship?

RS:  Oh my gosh, New Brunswick has a great junior program for starters.  There are a lot of great junior curlers.  Unfortunately I think what happens there is they kind of fizzle out because life takes over, that is certainly what happened with me.  The junior program is very strong.  You had myself, you have Andrea Kelly come out of there.  Rene Comeau, Josh Barry, Jeremy Mallais, some great curlers.  Some just don't carry on into the men's though.  Everything is about those yellow and black jackets.  Just to wear that...it's the tops!  When we first put our team together, it was originally to go to the Canada Games in 2003.  I wasn't skip but I was throwing last rocks.  A cousin of mine, Dan Sherrard, he was skip and I was throwing last rocks.  We were a really strong team driving towards Canada Games and we won a silver medal.  We also went to the junior that year, in 2003 in Ottawa, and it was amazing.  We got the New Brunswick jackets and, when you are that young and a chance to go to the world championships, it's amazing.  We had a good week, finished 6-6, middle of the pack and respectable for New Brunswick.  Dan then aged out because he was too old.  I started skipping.  We brought a couple of new players to the team, Jason and Darren Roach, and it was their first year in competitive curling.  They are golfers though and have such an athletes mind way of approaching the game.  This new team managed to win New Brunswick and go on to win nationals.  I will always remember my conversation with our couch just a week before the 2004 nationals, we sat down, checked out the field and looked at each other saying "We can win this thing!"  For a New Brunswick team to look at the field and say "We can do this" was huge.  Usually you go and try to win a few games.  We were really serious about it that year.  We knew where we stood in that field and we went out to Victoria and focused on that goal.  We beat some amazing teams, John Epping, beat Matt Blandford in the final, Daley Peters in the semifinal.

TT:  You also beat Brett Gallant, who is here in Edmonton representing Team Canada.

RS:  Yeah, of course.  We played him many times.  He has bulked up a little bit now mind you *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Yeah I noticed the same thing.  And still taller than you.

RS:  *laughing*  Yeah definitely.  We had a great showing in Victoria.  We won and we were on such a high.  For me, personally, it was such an accomplishment you almost forgot the world's were the next big thing.  You are on this high of winning nationals, it was hard for me personally to come back down into training mode.  I wanted to ride this high as long as possible and then you suddenly realize you still have worlds.  And worlds were in Canada so you are the home team.  Suddenly all this pressure is dropped on you.  You are at the worlds, you are the home nation, the media is all over you....you never deal with all of that as Team New Brunswick.  Suddenly the maple leaf is on your back and the media wants to talk to you.  It was a lot of new experiences to deal with.  It was hard to just focus on the curling.  For myself, I struggled.  I did not have a good week.  We ended up losing a tiebreaker to Korea and finished 5th.  It was not our goal as Team Canada.  It was very disappointing for us.  Our coach sat us down though and basically said "look boys, you are still national champions, Canadian champions, and nobody can ever take that away from you."  And sure looking back at it now we didn't win worlds but we won a Canadian title and it is something we look back on still to this day, 13 years ago now, it was absolutely amazing!

TT:  Excellent.  And you even went back and represented New Brunswick the following year at nationals.  Did you feel the pressure coming back as repeat champion?

RS:  Absolutely!  Because we had won, New Brunswick wanted to host the next year.  Fredericton put in a bid to host the juniors and, again, we are back to being the defending champions on home soil and the target is on our back.  It was a very strong field.  I believe it was Kyle George from Saskatchewan who ended up winning that year.  Having the target on your back, we finished 5-7 that year.  I think 6 of our 7 losses were by 1 point in the 10th end.  It was one of those weeks where the little things just didn't go our way.  We could have easily finished better.  It was tough.  It was a let down.  It was not how we wanted to finish.  The next year we even failed to win our province, losing to Steve Burgess who is also a very talented, young curler in New Brunswick.  That was also very disappointing to not win again and get another crack at it.  As disappointing as it was at the time, to look back now and see what we were able to do as juniors with Canada Games and Canadian Juniors, you cannot complain.

TT:  Absolutely.  And you also came from a time where the Maritime provinces were really coming up.  We mentioned Brett.  You were there.  Matt was playing.  You were all kind of the kick of the generation to #growthesport.  Many of the junior teams from these provinces were starting to come up.

RS:  Exactly.  And you had Russ Howard, who just moved to Moncton.  You had Shawn Adams and Mark Dacey doing well out of Nova Scotia.  The Atlantic provinces are like a family and quite close.  It can be difficult to travel to the high-profile events because of funding and sponsorship.  It may be a bit different now because I have been away for awhile but back in those days we were really in our own little bubble playing the same group of teams then suddenly you are at the nationals playing these really good teams who have been playing in these top tournaments.  You feel like the small fish in the big pond.  Within our community, we are really tight.  It was a great time for the Maritimes.  And now another resurgence with Brad (Gushue) and all the success he is having.  And Brett being from PEI having all the success.

TT:  Yeah very true.  As you also know Matt Blandford is a member of the #TwineTime family.  He and I had a great interview and he was saying his memory was the same in playing you guys alot and saying the same thing you are saying in the feeling of a close family playing among the Atlantic provinces.  He also has very positive and great things to say about you, of course also saying you did win the biggest game the two of you played, being that Canadian junior final.

RS:  Absolutely.  Playing against Matt from U-17 to juniors.  There was never really any tournaments in Newfoundland so he always had to travel to us.  Then of course we played in a national final.  I think he even beat us in the round robin.

TT:  Yes he did.

RS:  But then we beat him in the final.  It was close.  I think we were up, they came back and then it came down to the last shot for the win.

TT:  I think so.  I think he also said it was the one curling shot he wishes he could take back was the final against you.

RS:  Yeah it was a grinder of a game.  I've never actually gone back and watched the tape.  I hate watching myself on TV.  I would gladly listen to the comments from the commentators but I cannot stand looking at myself on the screen.  *laughing*  I've never gone back to watch the game.  It was a blur.  All the CBC cameras were there.  All the fans eyes are just on you, playing on one sheet of ice.  It was an experience.  I actually experienced it again this week playing Gushue on Sheet A, a side sheet where the fans are right there.  It was a Tuesday evening draw so everyone was off work, everyone was here having a good time.  It was very surreal and I just went through the motions.  I curled well and I swept well and put everything into the game.  But it was a very surreal experience in just looking around.

TT:  I remember watching your junior final.  It was a great final.  It was when I became a fan of yours, all those years ago.

RS:  Really?  Geez...wow!  That's awesome!

TT:  Now speaking about way back when, let's talk about the worlds.  Interesting field at your world juniors.  Almost replicated to who you are playing here oddly enough.  Almost half of this world field was with you at your world juniors, including your current skip (Alexander Baumann) who you played against representing Team Canada and Alex was representing Team Germany.

RS:  Absolutely.  You also had Niklas Edin from Sweden.

TT:  Who ended up winning the world junior title.

RS:  Yup he did, deservingly so.  I remember the game we curled against Sweden, I curled 97% that game and he curled 99%.  It was just the story of the week for us I guess.  But you also had Joel Retornaz (Italy), Alex Baumann (Germany).

TT:  Morozumi.

RS:  Yes Morozumi was there for Japan.  Havard Vad Petersson (Norway) who now plays lead for Team Ulsrud was here.  It was crazy to see the 2004 junior field is kind of replicated here again.

TT:  Isn't that kind of what you want to see though?  When you go to a world juniors, you kind of hope and expect to see the field replicated at the men's and women's world's maybe 10 years later.

RS:  Yeah exactly.  You kind of expect these guys will all carry through.  Of course there will be changes on the teams but you expect the main guys to be there.  I think that is what happened.  If anything I think I am the one who stepped away and am now just starting to come back.  I even get a bit star struck now in seeing these guys.  Even though I have not been playing for the past 5 or 6 years, I have still been following and watching on TV.  To be able to play against Gushue and Edin and de Cruz and Ulsrud and Brewster and Murdoch....the little curler fan boy inside of me is going nuts.  But on the outside of course the curler in me has to stay calm.  *laughing*  But it is fun.  Like I was saying with the Maritime provinces being our own little bubble, I find it is the same in Europe with the team being very close.  We are playing against one another every other week in Scotland or Germany or Switzerland.  You always see the guys in a more down to Earth environment, maybe not in a big arena but in a more smaller curling club.  You get to know the guys and they are all really great people.  It's a blast to bump shoulders with these people I admire and look up to.  And of course discovering they are all great people off the ice as well is just an extra pleasant surprise.

TT:  Oh for sure.  Were you guys, all of you who were at the same world juniors, able to have a little moment and get together for a little reunion and talk?

RS:  You know not all together but separately I have talked to each of them.  It would be cool to get all those guys together for one big photo.

TT:  That would have been awesome.  Now the other side of everything, and you talked about it already, you were the first Canadian to not make the Final 4.

RS:  *laughing*  Thanks for the reminder.

TT:  *laughing*  Sorry.  I can't always be pumping the tires of course.  What was that like?  How was it when you got back and had time to reflect?  Was it tough?  When we are younger guys you sometimes are able to move past things and sometimes we can't.

RS:  It was tough in the moment, especially I put a lot of the blame on it myself.  I feel like I didn't properly prepare for it.  I feel like I let my team down.  My team curled great.  The front end was on the All-Star teams.  My third curled well.  I felt the pressure from the media.  It was also one of those times in 2004 when you just had the expectation as Team Canada where if you curl well and stick to the game plan you are going to make the playoffs.  The rest of the world was still trying to catch up.  You had the expectation that you will make playoffs...which was not the proper mindset.  Now it is not like that anymore.

TT:  Well this year is the perfect example.  Tyler Tardi's Canada rink suffered a similar fate to you in losing the TB and not reaching the playoff round.  On the flip side I guess you are now no longer the only team to hold the record.

RS:  Oh yeah that's right.  As a Canadian, and it pains me to say, but the world is catching up and we may see this more often.  With the Asian nations catching up, I think it may be a more common thing in Canada not always being on the podium.  As a Canadian you don't want to see that but for the sport of curling and to see it is growing world wide.  It was disappointing not to be on the podium but time heals everything.  To look back, just making it there and winning a Canadian juniors, that's what we focus on.

TT:  Exactly.  And nobody can take that honour away from you.  You have the maple leaf jacket and you own that.

RS:  Exactly.  And that is what our coach said.  Nobody can take that away from you.  I still have the Canadian jacket packed up at home and it was a great experience.  If I could go back sure I would prepare for that week much much better.  But what's done is done.

TT:  On the flip side though, as we have said, look at the field you lost to.  They are all here.  You didn't lose to a group of guys who quit the sport or have not found success.  They have all continued on and are being very successful in the sport as well.

RS:  That's the thing.  And they all deserve that success.  They are great curlers.

TT:  Exactly.  And that is what you have to hope for too.  Great success for yourself but also for the great competitors you face.

RS:  Absolutely!

TT:  Now in talking about #growthesport, you have moved over to Germany.  What happened?  Where was Ryan all those years?  It is almost like a welcome back party here this week.  What happened to Ryan and where did he go?  *laughing*

RS:  *laughing*  It was always a balance for me.  I love school and education.  I was always juggling the two with curling and university.  After juniors was done and I was finished with university at Mount Allison in 2008, there was a fork in the road.  Do I want to stay in New Brunswick or somewhere else in Canada and continue curling or do I want to take a break and do some travelling around Europe, which is what I always wanted to do.  I decided to hit the pause button on curling for one season or a half-season, travel around Europe for a few months with a good buddy of mine, Darren Roach.  We lived in Germany, traveled around a lot though for three months.  We were supposed to come back and get back into curling and having a life back in Canada.  He ended up meeting a girl who he is now married to.  And I ended up falling in love as well....with Germany!  It was a great experience for both of us, life changing for both of us.  I decided to stay over there, especially after I found out the education system is tuition free, which is a bonus.  I decided to stay in Munich and do a Masters that led to a PhD.  It is always hard to think though of what could have been if I stayed in curling.  Could I have been to the Brier or moved somewhere else and joined another team.  You never know what could have happened.  I had to hit the pause button on curling for awhile though.  Curling is a sport that is always in you.  It is not a sport where just because you turn 30 your curling days are over.  It's always there for you and I kept that in the back of my mind.  Go travel like you want to and further the education like I want to and when I am ready to get back into curling there will be opportunities.  The shoes sat in the closet collecting dust.  I hadn't thrown a rock in 5 years.  I went to Basel last year for world men's.  It was close by so I figured why not go and watch a week of curling, cheer on Kevin Koe and the boys.  I had a friend there who I could stay with who just happened to also be really close with the German guys so she introduced us.  We had an evening together where we ate and enjoyed some drinks and got to know each other.  I came back to Munich, thinking it was a great time but not thinking much more about it.  Later that summer I got a call from the head coach saying they had an injury and asking if I was interested in joining the team for the season.  I said absolutely but I am rusty and haven't thrown a rock in a few years and they said that was ok.  The first tournament was in Sapporo, Japan in August.  This conversation was in June.  *laughing*  Alright I have two months to get my gear together and practice on some ice somewhere.

TT:  *laughing*  Was it just like riding a bike though?  You get back on the ice and it just all comes back?

RS:  Yeah.  I booked a 4 hour practice session in Fuessen, which is the closest place to me.  Unfortunately Munich, as big of a city as it is, does not have a curling club.  This is a common theme around Germany with the main cities not having a curling facility.  Most of them are in the southern region, closer to the Alps where the winter sports are a bit more popular.  I got my parents to FedEx my shoes and pants and everything.  Cost was not cheap.  *laughing*  I even had to pay duty on it, a $100 duty on my own curling shoes which was weird.

TT:  *laughing*  Never a cheap sport apparently now.

RS:  *laughing*  No I guess not.  But if this is what it takes to join the German team, I will do it.  Booked the 4 hour session to just practice and get my balance back.  I was off to Japan and met up with the guys and we started planning the the season.  We stuck to the CCT events, top quality events mostly with European teams and a few Canadian teams come over.  I am back in the mix now, playing lead.

TT:  What is it like playing lead?  Going from skip to lead, do you like it?

RS:  It is a big change, it is quite different.  Fortunately being a skip before and being very aware of team dynamics and what you need at each position, I knew what I look for in the a lead.  I tried to emulate that into the lead I am.  I try not to be too vocal on the ice.  I want to help the team.  I told the team I am here to help as best I can.  I try to take on a strong support role.  Throwing though is completely different.  You have the psych yourself up to throw a corner guard.  *laughing*  What I found is, having thrown fourth stones my entire career, you sit in the hack and look at the at the small port you need to draw through.

TT:  You have more rocks in play to focus and deal with.

RS:  Exactly.  It is an instant focus for you.  You know the shot and you see the path and know what's on the line.  Now to play lead and have a wide open house to throw top four feet.  The visualization is completely different.  You have to almost guess at the weight and the path.  It is different.  This week was a big help and really got me to come into myself as a lead.  The first few games I was a bit rusty but as the week went on I really got into my groove a bit more.  I was finding that top four weight.  I was setting up the team really well.  That is another thing as a lead, you know the ends you mess up because if you don't set up the skips may get most of the blame but I actually blame myself.  *laughing*  I miss my second shot and now we are in trouble.  You see the impact your shots have when the ends work out and when they don't.

TT:  Have you mastered the tick shot?

RS:  I made one!  I only had to throw two this week and I made one.

TT:  So you are 50% for the week, not too bad.

RS:  Yeah 50% isn't horrible.  I made one at the Europeans as well so I have made two tick shots on arena ice this year *laughing*  That's not bad.

TT:  You bring up another good point, competing at Europeans.  What is the difference between competing at Europeans vs. competing at Canadians?

RS:  You know it is very similar.  The crowds are smaller at Europeans.  This year they were in Scotland so you had more fans and very knowledgeable fans.  Next year they are in Switzerland so it should be the same, curling is quite big in Switzerland.  I had never curler at a Europeans so I didn't really know what to expect.  It ended up being really good.  It feels like a mini-Brier or mini-Worlds.  You are on arena ice with fans cheering.  It is great preparation for the worlds, similar to how the Brier is for the guys here.  I went in not knowing what to expect.  I had never curled at one or even watched one but I enjoyed it.  It was great!

TT:  Nice!  Now I may be wrong here but I believe you may be the only Canadian to be a Canadian junior champ plus play at a European Championship and a World's?

RS:  Oh...maybe!

TT:  I don't know many Canadians who would have the experience of playing at a Canadian championship and a European Championship and a World Championship.

RS:  Hmmm maybe.  Although I do know Melanie Robillard on the women's side did play with Andrea Schoepp at Europeans and won worlds.

TT:  You may be the first guy perhaps?  The first Canadian male curler.  Andrea Kelly would be close as well on the female side.

RS:  Andrea Kelly, yup.  She also won the Canadian juniors the year after me.  She had a good year to win the Canadian juniors in 2005 on home ice.  I was so happy for her.

TT:  What is the deal with you New Brunswick people jumping the pond to Germany?

RS:  I know, right?  Andrea Kelly, now Crawford, is over there now.  Actually I met up with her about a year ago.  Her and her husband and daughter were in Austria and we met up.  Her husband got an offer with the Canadian military to move over here and I think the contract has been extended now.  They are really enjoying it.  She is back in curling now too.  She curled with Andrea Schoepp in a few tournaments and just recently curled in Scotland with a Canadian team, Team Fleury.  Andrea is getting the itch to get back in curling.  She hit the pause button to have a family but is getting the itch to get back on the ice now too.  Both of us are in Germany.  We are pretty much mirror images of one another.  Both Canada Games medal winners, both Canadian champions from New Brunswick.

TT:  Both now curling for German teams.

RS:  That's right, both curling out of Germany.  Maybe I will start a mixed doubles team. *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  There you go.  Two Canadians form a mixed doubles team to represent Germany.  Why not?  I am a huge Andrea fan as well and I, along with many Canadian curling fans I am sure, wish her the best and hope to see her back on the ice more often in the future.

RS:  Yeah she is so solid and super nice.  She will be back.

TT:  Speaking on the curling scene in Germany, what is it like?  Is there a lot of work to be done still to help #growthesport back in Germany?

RS:  I would say so.  I think when you tell people you are a curler in Germany, there first reaction is "what is that?".  Everyone is a football fan there.  I have even become a football fan now, big Bayern Munich supporter.  Curling is not on most people's radar.  It is tough because it's not on the radar and there is not that much depth so the performance on the international level is not where it should be.  It is a cycle where sub-par field is not as deep.  There are pockets of curlers but there is probably only 4 or 5 places where there are curling teams.  I think that may be why I was an attractive player to the guys when I came over because I have lived and breathed curling for most of my life.  He hasn't throw a rock in six years but he has a passion for it.  I want to see curling take off in Germany!

TT:  Is it surprising to you though?  When you look at the history books, we have some great world champions and Olympic finalists.  Andy (Kapp) and Andrea (Schoepp) are high-profile curlers who have outstanding results.  What is happening where we are seeing these strong curling athletes and results but then no growth behind it?

RS:  I don't know....I really don't *laughing*  What is even more perplexing is when you go across the border to Switzerland, it is almost like a mini-Canada.  All cities and all towns have a curling club.  There are fans and a passion for the sport.  I don't know why it isn't there in Germany.  I am still new to the European curling scene.  There is a gap between Andy and our guys.  There is also a great up and coming junior team with Marc Muskatewitz.  We call him "Mookie".  He was will Alex at worlds last year but he choose to go back to juniors this year as it is his last year of eligibility.  He has a great young team.  On the women's side you have Daniela Jentsch, who was at women's worlds in Beijing.

TT:  I met her and the team last year in Swift Current.  I am a huge fan of their entire team, love them.  They are super friendly and just great people.

RS:  Yeah they are great.  They are sports soldiers, as is Alex on our team, which means they get money from the German Army to just train and curl.  They have the opportunity to curl and train every day.  I think that will pay off with results later.  I think Daniela will be a bit disappointed with the result but they went into that last day with a shot at the playoffs and qualify for the Olympics.  As they keep building, they could be a break out team in the next year or two.

TT:  I agree with you.  I actually thought this year they played better in Beijing than they did in Swift Current.  Even the games they lost, they were right in the games.  You can see what a year has done for them, it is amazing to watch.  Hopefully they can land one of those last-chance Olympic berths, similar to you guys, and both German teams advance.  I think both have a good shot at making the Olympics.

RS:  For sure.  I also have to give a big shout out to Josephine Obermann on their team.  She is a good friend who lives in Basel who introduced me to Alex and the boys.  If it was not for Josephine I would not be here talking to you today.  I owe everything that has happened to me this season to her.

TT:  Oh nice, excellent!  Going back to the Canadian side, what do you think you can bring back over to Germany, based on your background and experience of curling in Canada?  What needs to happen?

RS:  What I have noticed, just in being back in Canada, is how much exposure the sport gets here.  Growing up and watching 9 hours of curling every day during the Brier and Scotties and World's and listening to commentary and playing in a Monday night league and a Tuesday night league, you just live and breathe the sport.  This is what builds the passion for the sport and a great knowledge base.  It just doesn't exist in Europe.  The sport started in Scotland and there are a lot of curlers there but even there the exposure is not what it could be.  Eurosport is starting to pick it up and I love what world curling is doing with showing games on YouTube now.  I think things like that are important.  Put the games out there with commentary to really learn and grow.  Increase the exposure and the sport will pick up over the next few years, especially in Germany hopefully.

TT:  I agree.  When I was unable to be here in Edmonton for games this week, streaming those games on YouTube was amazing.  You can watch the games and see the comments coming in were usually European.  They were calling out for more coverage and thanking world curling for showing these games.  The cool thing was also seeing other curlers not competing, some Canadians like Josh Barry as an example, jumping online and talking about the sport with fans and answering questions.  It was engaging and educating in a grassroots way.

RS:  It really is.  And I want to see that grow more and more.  I think it is important.  Personally, for me growing up listing to Linda (Moore), Vic (Rauter) and Ray (Turnbull)....that TSN theme music would come on, it made me so happy.  I would skip school for the whole week the Brier was on and watch every single minute.  And now with Russ (Howard) and Cheryl (Bernard), there is just great information and commentary.  It's a crash course on great strategy and team dynamics.  I got to meet Vic the other day, one of the highlights on my life.  That guy is the voice of curling!

TT:  100% the voice of curling around the world.  Great guy!

RS:  Oh for sure, without a doubt.

TT:  Did we also just hear you say, as a PhD student, you used to skip school for curling?

RS:  Ah, nope.  That didn't happen *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  No?

RS:  *laughing*  Oh my dad used to even write the notes and excuses.  Ryan is watching a physics-based sport on ice with rotational pull...he tried to make it smart but really I am just watching curling.  I am from Saint John and the worlds was in Saint John in 1999, that was the first big exposure to curling for me.  I took the whole week of school, got all the autographs.  Andy Kapp was there.  Pal Trulsen.  Elisabet Gustafson won the women's side....

TT:  All Hall of Famers...each of them.

RS:  Exactly!  And now, 18 years later, to be playing in the same event...it is full circle.  I never thought I would be here....playing here...especially without playing in a Brier.  As a Canadian, you want to make the Brier and see what happens.  But to make it to the worlds without playing in a Brier is surreal.

TT:  Is it really weird to be playing in a worlds having a different color jacket on your back?  Did it take you back a bit and take some time to grasp being here and representing a different country?

RS:  What made it a little weird was playing against Team Canada in Draw 11.  When you have Canadians in the crowd jeering me and cheering against me....I'm like "Guys, I'm Canadian too!" *laughing*  But I got it and it was fine.  I had a few supporters in the crowd, aka my mom and dad and sister.  I am here representing Germany but we are also our own teams as well.  We see de Cruz and Edin and Murdoch on tour events.  We are here wearing our national jackets but come next event and next season we are all back on the club ice playing one another at tour events.

TT:  What was it like being on the other side of autographs as well?  Like you said, when you were at worlds you were on the one side meeting these legends and getting the autographs.  Now you are on the other side of the table being asked for your autograph.

RS:  It was something I loved.  I was looking for those little kids to come up and meet the players and be inspired.  I hope I can inspire some kids to want to take up the sport of curling and play at this level and dream about playing at a world championship because that is what the worlds did for me in 1999.  If I can do anything for a kid the same way by stopping to take a picture or sign an autograph or sign a shirt or even just chat, anything to inspire the next generation of curlers is a huge priority for me because it is what kick-started it for me.

TT:  I think props to you as well.  If I was looking, as a parent, for someone for my kid to look up to as a role model you would be a great example.  You stuck with the sport and found success but also put a high emphasis on education and it was important in the long-run.  Curling, like most sports, can go at any time.  A knee injury here and you could be done.  Injuries happen in all sports.  With no education behind you, what are you doing after?  I think what you have done, your story and sharing what you have done is props to you and congratulations on making sure you do that.

RS:  Well thank you!!  I think there are way more inspirational people in the sport than me though *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  But, like we said earlier, you made the tough call on stepping away at a peak moment of potentially finding success in men's and who knows what would have happened next.  You turned your focus on education.  Very similar to what we saw from Mary Fay last year after winning a Canadian and World Junior title.  She focused on education as well.

RS:  Yeah, the transition from juniors to men's and women's is a pivotal time for people to think about.  Curling, like I said, is always that sport where it will be there for you to get back in the game.  If you have a dream to travel or continue your education or get back into the work force full time, do that and follow that dream.  Curling will be there when you are ready to come back.

TT:  Now, in talking about your world championship experience here, we need to talk about #TheHat!  Let's talk about it.  I love this hat you are wearing.  I think it is one of the sexiest hats we have seen on the curling ice.  We saw you wear it opening day and then it went away.  What is going on with this hat?

RS:  *laughing*  Oh man, I made this hat and got it custom-made.

TT:  Did you design it yourself?

RS:  Yeah I did.  It is a design I have always wanted to get a tattoo of.

TT:  It's like you read my mind....I was going to ask you about it as a tattoo later.  *laughing*

RS:  *laughing*  Nice.  I have lived in Germany for 10 years now and this is very symbolic of me.  I figured I'd put it on a hat first and if I still liked it after wearing it as a hat for a week then I'll go ahead and get a tattoo.  It is also to perhaps cover up...ummm....

TT:  The massive bald spot we got to see all week you mean?  *laughing*

RS:   *laughing*  Oh yeah!

TT:  *laughing*  It's ok...let's just call it out as it is.  This is going #BetweenTheSheets after all.

RS:  *laughing*  Exactly.  Let's call it out!

TT:  You aren't that old either.  You are younger than I am.

RS:  It is the PhD stress I tell you!  And those overhead camera's in curling are not friendly to me *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Yes I noticed.  And sitting on the media bench this week I did get a few glares off the top of your head.

RS:  *laughing*  I wish I could sweep and look up the whole time at least.  So I made this hat and thought it would be great.  I wore it for the first few draws but unfortunately had been made aware at the Opening Ceremonies it might be an issue because it is non-complaint with the rules here as it represents two nations instead of one.  I decided to wear it until someone forcibly told me not to wear it and I was told before our game was going to be on YouTube that I could not wear it.  I don't agree with the decision.  Yeah it represents Canada and Germany but I don't think anyone is going to mistake me for a member of Team Gushue...I mean look at me *laughing*  I understand the rules are the rules though I guess.  But now we are out of the competition and the hat is back!

TT:  Right on!  In talking about wearing it here, what did your team think about it?  Did they love it?  Did the German Federation say anything about it?

RS:  It was a last minute thing.  I ordered it a week before coming here.  When I showed it to the team they all wanted one too.  I tried to order more for the team and extras to give out.

TT:  Oh you would have been a BIG fan of the crowd if that would have happened my friend!

RS:  Ugh I know, I know.  It was too late.

TT:  Again, better prep for worlds my man. *laughing*

RS:  *laughing* Next year, next year!  The return of #TheHat!

TT:  It is unfortunate though.  And, the interesting thing with that rule is, where the sport of curling is now and where the sport is going, look at how many players even competing here are technically born in other countries.  The trend is leaning that way and the boundary lines of countries, or the boundary lines of provinces as we are seeing in Canada, seem to be blurring.

RS:  Globalization is how the world works now.  Exactly.  I didn't go to Germany to join the German Team.  I went there and this just happened to occur.  I think you are going to be seeing more of that.

TT:  Well perhaps you are the trend setter in having that rule be reviewed.  You and #TheHat could lead to a rule change in the future. *laughing*

RS:  *laughing*  Maybe #TheHat will get its own twitter account and next year they cannot force it away and pull it off of me.

TT:  *laughing*  Oh yes!! And then we don't have to worry about counting bald spots in between ends.

RS:  *laughing* Perfect!!!

TT:  *laughing* Right on!  Ok let's talk about a few other big things about yourself.  What is your most memorable curling shot?

RS:  Hmmm most memorable curling shot was....hmmm funny.  It was from 2003 Canada Games.  We were playing the semifinal against J.D. Lind from Alberta.

TT:  Who is also here at the world championships.

RS:  Right...he is also here!  Such a great guy in Japan as the coach.  He is great.  It was him and Matthew Ng and Brock Virtue.  It was the SF and there was a small port.  I think it was the 7th or 8th end.  It was a very small port JD had to come through and he made it perfect.  I had to follow him down and make the same shot perfect as well.  I made the shot and then he had to come through once again and he wrecked.  It was a turning point for us.  It helped put us into the gold medal final.  I think it was the first big game we had ever played in.  It was the goal of the team, formed in 1998 and our goal was to be in that gold medal game in 2003.  The moment we knew we were in that gold medal game, it was the first big victory for our team and for myself as a competitive curler.  I will always remember that shot.  I think JD would like to forget it *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  I'd say.  Did you talk to him about it here and maybe rub it in a little big?  Remember when....

RS:  *laughing*  I should.  And of course the shot to win nationals.  You never forget that shot.  It wasn't a huge shot but it was an open hit for the win.  And of course after I made it I did the one thing I promised myself I would never do.  I made the shot, stood up starting to cheer and then fell flat on my face.

TT:  *laughing* Nice!

RS:  *laughing* Yeah!  I hid it really well.  I fell gracefully and made it look like a slide.  But yeah, no I just fell.

TT:  So basically I need to try my best to find video of this to accompany this interview.

RS:  And I need to find that video before you do.

TT:  *laughing*  Ok we will see who gets to it first.

<Ed. Note: I could not find a video clip of this.  If anyone finds it, please let me know.>

RS:  *laughing*  Exactly!

TT:  Now on the flip side, what is the one mulligan shot you wish you could redo?

RS:  Oh if I could go back I would just redo the whole world juniors.  I would do that, specifically against South Korea in the TB.  I would redo that.  Like I said, I would have loved to give my team the possibility of making the playoffs and playing for a podium spot.  I have thought a few times about turning back the clock and going back to Trois-Rivieres in 2004 and redoing that.  It is what is it.

TT:  And you lost to a very good Korea team.  They are on the world curling tour, competed at the world championships last year.  They are a great team.

RS:  Exactly.  They are a great team as well.  I cannot take anything away from them.  They were solid.  The Asian teams and the rest of the world are catching up.  We thought if we went out and played our game we should win.  But full credit to them because they were a very strong team.  They continue to grow.

TT:  They look to be the team Korea could be sending to the Olympics right now as well.

RS:  Absolutely!  They are going to be there in 2018...and I hope to play them again.

TT:  For sure.  In looking at the field right now this event could be a little preview to what we could be seeing in Korea next year.

RS:  Yeah, a little prep on what's to come perhaps.

TT:  Exactly.  Let's go through some rapid fire questions and let people get to know Ryan a bit better.

RS:  Awesome, let's do it!

TT:  What is your nickname?

RS:  Oh..ummm....do I have a nickname?  In Germany nicknames are not so popular.  Ry-Guy was what my junior team used to call me.

TT:  Nice.  Who is your curling rival?

RS:  Rival?  Hmmm....I have such a positive mindset I don't think of rivalries as much.

TT:  Rivalries do not have to be negative though.

RS:  No, that is true.  A curling rival would be Edin.  He won the world juniors.  I played him 3 times this year and lost to him each time.

TT:  Have you ever beat him?

RS:  Never.  In our 4 matches I have never beat him.  It is a tall task.

TT:  But you are probably taller than him at least *laughing*

RS:  *laughing*  Yeah but he has all the curling skills behind him.  He is amazing.  And another example of a great person.  He is a tough guy on the ice but an even better guy off the ice.  It is great to see these guys just be stand up guys off the ice as well.

TT:  I agree, Nik is a great guy.  It is one of the main reasons why I feel very honoured and happy to have him as a member of the #TwineTime family as well.  Do you have a curling idol?

RS:  Absolutely!  Sandra Schmirler was my reason for joining the sport when I saw her win the Olympics in 1998.  I wasn't a curling fan then but I was an Olympics fan.  When I saw her win, I said maybe this is sport I could try and maybe make it to the Olympics one day.  Watching Sandra Schmirler and Mike Harris at the 1998 Olympics was incredibly inspirational to me.  Watching her pass away in 2000 was devastating.  She made such an impact on the sport in the 90's.  She really really inspired me.  Of course all the greats as well: Russ Howard, Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey.  I could go on and on.  When the Brier was going on I used to make little ranking sheets at home and follow all the teams.  I was in love with all the teams.  I followed them all and was inspired by them all.  But Sandra was my first and top inspiration.

TT:  Well we have that in common.  I am from Regina and she, along with her team, are number one for me as well.  I remember being at the Scotties in Regina and watching her compete.  I did the same as you as a kid, going up and getting her autograph.  It was amazing!

RS:  I still have a little toy curling rock that has her signature on it.  Also, in the world juniors, Joan McCusker and Mike Harris are doing the commentating on the game.  Just so surreal....

TT:  Oh very surreal.  Wow!  What's an embarrassing song on your ipod?

RS:  Is it embarrassing to say the new Ed Sheeran song, Shape of You?  I didn't listen to Ed Sheeran before.  I'm not really into the "poppy" music but I now discovered I love Ed Sheeran.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Wow, a little Ed lover over here.  We would not have guessed that about you.  If you could pick any company in the world as a curling sponsor, who would it be?

RS:  Apple!?  They have a lot of money!!  *laughing*  And I am an Apple freak.  I have all the Apple stuff.  I don't know if they are into supporting curling teams but maybe they will read this and give me a call.

TT:  *laughing*  There you go.  Apple if you are listening or reading, Ryan is looking for you!  Of the 7 dwarfs, which are you?

RS:  The 7 dwarfs, is there a lazy one?  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  There is no lazy one.

RS:  *laughing*  I am Dopey!  I am really that guy.  I don't take life too seriously.  I like to joke around and prank.  I think because I have been doing my PhD in academia a lot so my daily life at work is very serious and structured so outside of work I like to kick back, not take life too seriously and be very easy-going.  I like to joke around so Dopey.

TT:  So lab rat Ryan is different from rink rat Ryan?

RS:  Oh yeah....those are two completely different lives.  From doing scientific research and publishing papers to curling...it's night and day.

TT:  Speaking about publications, you were recently published correct?  How many times have you been published overall now?

RS:  Yeah I was just recently published.  I have been published three times now.  I just published a first author paper, which is the main goal of a PhD student so that was good.  The whole process of publishing was going on while I was joining the team and travelling alot.  It was very difficult to juggle everything.  It was a lot of working on the road and reading papers on the road and writing on the road and not much down time.  In all honesty I am looking forward to getting back and having a weekend free to have some downtime before getting back into the swing of things.

TT:  Well congratulations on being published.

RS:  Thank you!

TT:  It is a big deal and deserving of a congratulations for sure.  Now sticking with the 7 dwarfs theme, who would the rest of your team be?

RS:  *laughing*  Oh, Alex would be....is there a dwarf who has his entire body covered in tattoos?

TT:  *laughing*  There is not a tattoo dwarf.  We have Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Happy, Grumpy and Doc.

RS:  Oh I take that back, maybe I am Doc.  I am getting my doctoral.

TT:  And he is also very happy.

RS:  Yeah, ok I am Doc.  Alex (Baumann) is Dopey.

TT:  There is always a Dopey on every team apparently.

RS:  Yup!  Sebastian (Schweizer) is Happy.  Daniel (Herberg) is....oh geez.....Sneezy.

TT:  Really?

RS:  Yeah, he sneezes alot!  Well everybody sneezes *laughing*  And I will say Manuel (Walter) is Bashful.  But I am still learning about the guys.  I am fairly new to the team and getting to know them and getting to know their personalities and getting to know how to fit in best with them.  At the end of the day they are a really great group of guys and I love travelling and playing with them.

TT:  And I am sure they will love to hear how you called them each a dwarf.

RS:  Oh yeah, I am off the team now *laughing*

TT:  *laughing* Exactly!  We have kind of talked about this but do you already have any tattoos?

RS:  No, none.

TT:  But one you want.

RS:  Yup, I'll be getting the Canadian maple leaf tattoo.

TT:  Do you know where you are going to get it?

RS:  No and that has been the hard decision for me.  I have no idea.  Any recommendations?

TT:  I do have a Canadian maple leaf tattoo as well.  I have mine on my waist line.  It was my first time.  I did the same thing.  I went to the US for a few years for school and wanted something to keep me grounded to my Canadian roots.

RS:  Exactly.  When I finally figure out a spot I will get it done.

TT:  Are you going to get it soon you think?

RS:  Soon.  Sooner rather than later.

TT:  I think that is also a great way to celebrate your first world experience.

RS:  I think so too!

TT:  Good call.  Favourite German food?

RS:  Ummm....I am drawing a blank.  Favourite German food is.....I'm thinking breakfast, dinner or lunch.  I mean you cannot go wrong with schnitzel.  When it is done right it is just so delicious.  I live in Bavaria and there is a ton of Bavarian food, lots of pork, potatoes, meat, gravy, beer.  It is not light food.  I am surprised I am not 700lbs right now.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  I was going to say, how are you staying so slim there buddy?

RS:  *laughing*  Yeah right?  Everyone is pretty slim there.  You walk everywhere.  You bike everywhere.  Everyone is so active.  But yea schnitzel is good!

TT:  How is cooking Ryan?

RS:  *laughing* Oh gawd.  You mean how is microwave or preheat something?  My apartment is so small that I don't have an oven but rather a little microwave that doubles as an oven.  It is a typical small European apartment.  I eat my biggest meal at my cafeteria at work so when I get home to eat I usually just have some bread, olive oil, vinegar, salami and cheese.  Just a little snack.

TT:  So basically cooking Ryan means I can make a sandwich?

RS:  Exactly!  *laughing*  That is the extent.

TT:  *laughing*  That is the extent of you cooking.  You need to get a relationship with someone who can cook for you.

RS:  Oh absolutely.  That is what I need to find.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  There you go.  Ok anyone reading this who is a great cook, hit up Ryan!  What about favourite German beer?

RS:  Oh Augustiner!  There are 6 big breweries in Munich and Augustiner is the one that everyone in Munich drinks.  The other 5 are really big exporters but Augustiner is very Munich focused.  It is a great Munich beer and I love it.  And everyone who comes to visit me loves it.  I can't wait to get back and pop open a cold Augustiner.

TT:  Oh very deserving.

RS:  Oh yeah!  And the beer gardens are open now too back home.  Summer in Munich cannot be beat!  You work hard during the day but then go have a beer with friends in the beer gardens after work and just enjoy.  It is a great work - life balance.

TT:  That is my next big question for you.  What are the big summer plans?

RS:  I love travelling.  It has been fun travelling with the guys.  It will be a lot of work with curling be on hold over the summer I will be putting in a lot of work over the summer in writing my thesis.  But I love to add in a trip here and there.  I also love running.  Every year I do a half marathon in a city or country I have never been to so I look at the map and find a marathon so I can tie in travelling with my love of running.  It's very cool.

TT:  That is very cool!  Is there a country you have not been to that is next on your list?

RS:  I have never been to Poland and I hear Krakow is very nice so if there is a race there I would love to go there.  Or Latvia.  Or Norway.  I think those are the three countries I have yet to visit.

TT:  Right on!  Of all the countries you have been to, what is your favourite?

RS:  I love Germany, it's why I live there.

TT:  Ok but you live there so that doesn't count *laughing*

RS:  *laughing*  I love the Balkans.  I love Croatia.  Bosnia.  The food and the coast line.  My favourite city is Vienna.

TT:  You are preaching my language my friend.  I am Austrian.  I have always wanted to go to Vienna.

RS:  Oh go!!!  You have to go.  I love Munich but Vienna is just amazing.  If I wasn't living in Munich I would live in Vienna.  It is a very beautiful city.  Highly educated.  Very clean.  Good coffee.  Good wine.  Good food.  Good beer.

TT:  You are selling me.....

RS:  Yeah I would live in Vienna and vacation in Croatia.

TT:  Very nice!  My last rapid fire question for you is how many languages to you speak?

RS: Oh one and a half *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  One and a half?  How is that possible?  You come from the only bilingual province in our country.  You live in another country that speaks a completely different language.  You should be speaking three I would guess.

RS:  *laughing*  I am not a good representative of New Brunswick right now.  You have to take French in school so I took 11 years of French but my brain only has the capacity of English and half another language.  German is tough man!  I can hardly speak French anymore.  I can understand it a bit but to speak it is very difficult.  German has taken over.  My German gets better every year I live there.  The lab I work in is very international so I don't get to practice my German very often, we mostly speak English.  But travelling with the guys now I get to practice my German a bit more.  We speak German most of the time and I can practice my terrible German more often.  That's why I say one and a half.  English being the one and German being the half.  French...sorry to say has disappeared from my brain.

TT:  Your New Brunswick fans are going to be heartbroken!

RS:  Oh I know.  Je m'excuse! *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  Well there is something at least.  And my last one for you is I do this thing called #AskACurler when I do a player profile.  When I knew we were going to talk, who else would be the best person to ask you a question but fellow #TwineTime blog family member Matt Blandford.  Matt had to think about it...I think he had a few things he would like to ask you or maybe say to you...but his question is "What made you grow out the facial hair for this world championship?  Is this an attempt to look more German?  What is the deal with this look?"

RS:  *laughing*  I have not been clean shaven in years.  If I do, I look like a baby.  I don't have a full beard but if I didn't have this little scruff look going on I am pretty sure I would get ID'd at The Patch.

TT:  *laughing*  So it is the only way to look your age?

RS:  *laughing*  Absolutely!  If I take my hat off maybe then I look older too.

TT:  *laughing*  That is true too.  So you are losing the hair on the top and just slowly moving it south to your face?

RS:  *laughing*  Yeah, that seems to be how life goes isn't it?

TT:  *laughing*  That is very true!  Excellent.  Ok my last thing for you is it is time to turn the tables.  Now you get to pose an #AskACurler question to someone.  My next interview is going to be Danielle Inglis, curler and Curling Canada social media rep.  What question, anything you want, what can I ask her on your behalf?  This is always one of the hardest questions of the interview too.

RS:  Hmmm....shit.  Yeah this is very hard.  Hmmmm something with a hashtag perhaps?  If you could make one hashtag go viral, what would it be?

TT:  Do you mean a hashtag for just her or for the sport in general?

RS:  In general.  If you could get an awesome curling hashtag just go viral, what would be the perfect ideal curling hashtag?

TT:  Oh very nice.  I love it!  What a great question?

RS:  Yeah?  Excellent!

TT:  Ok my friend, you are now officially a member of the #TwineTime family.  Welcome!!  And thank you for sitting down and talking with me.

RS:  Yes!!!  Awesome, thank you as well.

There you go #TwineTime friends.  We welcome a new member into the #TwineTime family.  A bit of a historic first as well with Ryan being a Canadian junior champion competing at the world championship under a different nation.  Quite unique situation as well.

It was a complete honour to have Ryan sit down and talk with me during the closing weekend of #FWMCC2017.  I wish him and his team all the best as they continue their Olympic dream pursuit in the final qualification event coming up at the end of 2017 in the Czech Republic.  And who knows, maybe we will see a few #TwineTime fam members marching in the 2018 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies next year?!!?

Special note with Ryan as well....he is the first member of the #TwineTime fam I have been fortunate enough to grab a picture with after an interview.  Another first....Mr. Sherrard you are on a role!

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