Last week, curling came to Cranbrook in a big way.
60 of the best teams from around the globe descended upon Western Financial Place to participate in the Tour Challenge, the second leg of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.
It also brought fans from far and wide.
Some were hardcore enthusiasts of the game who travelled miles just to see the biggest names of the sport in person, while others just showed up and tried to figure out what was going on.
On Friday, the Townsman caught up with two of the more noticeable fans at the rink — both were waving national flags.
Gretchen Hutterli was a Scotland flag waving supporter from Portland, Oregon.
Although she had the Scottish flag, Hutterli’s heart was torn in four. She had four flags sewn down her jacket sleeve — the United States, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.
“I’m from the United States [so] that explains that flag,” Hutterli said. “I have roots to the Scots on my mom’s side and the Swiss on my dad’s.”
The Swedish connection is a little more personal and first-hand for this new curler.
“The coach for Team Smith [of Scotland], Viktor Kjall, visited my curling club in 2015 when I was first starting. He was actually my first skip in my first game.”
When she learned that Team Smith was being coached by Kjall and coming to Cranbrook, she knew it was a journey she would have to make.
“I had to come because this is the closest they are going to be to Portland all year … I feel a debt of gratitude towards Viktor for getting me started and getting me enthusiastic about the sport.”
A few aisles over was a Swedish flag waving supporter Klara Fernlof. She is a Rotarian International Exchange Student from Sweden. She has been living in Cranbrook and attending grade 12 at Mount Baker Secondary School since August.
Watching curling is a new experience for Fernlof.
“I don’t understand how it works,” she admitted. “I have never been to a curling competition before and excited to do it Canada. I would like to learn how to curl as well.”
Encountering the differences between Canada and her homeland is a frequent experience for Fernlof.
“As a Rotarian exchange student, each weekend members take me out to different activities. This week [we came] here … I’m trying to get every possible experience that is as Canadian as possible. I really appreciate being here in Canada and trying to be Canadian.”
The Grand Slam of Curling concluded on Sunday afternoon with a men’s final draw that saw Team Edin of Sweden defeat Team Smith of Scotland.
Both Swedish and Scottish flags were being waved enthusiastically all around the arena at the end of the weekend and each fan holding them certainly also carried their own unique story.
With the sheets gone from Cranbrook and the hockey ice restored, curling fans focus will now shift to Kimberley for the 2016 Wall Grains Mixed Doubles Classic, which is being held at the Kimberley Curling Club from November 14-16.
Like the Tour Challenge, the event will feature some of the brightest stars of the sport with Brad Gushue, Jennifer Jones and John Morris all going head-to-head to earn a spot to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics.