Lisa Weagle's start: Curling in her blood

By: Brenda Chapman

It’s safe to say that Lisa had a handle on the sport of curling before she threw her first rock. I’d curled in high school (one lesson, corn brooms, no slider and jeans) in my small Northern Ontario town, and when Lisa and her younger sister Julia were six and four respectively, I suggested to Ted that we take up the sport together at the Ottawa Granite.

For our mixed league Saturday or Sunday afternoon games, we’d bring the girls to the club and they’d set up their play structure in the ladies’ change room or read books and play games behind the glass. They were comfortable in this homey and friendly club, especially when the adults were curling and they had the run of the place.

 Lisa Weagle (Photo: Olympic.ca)

Lisa Weagle (Photo: Olympic.ca)

Although Ted had never thought about the sport before, he took to curling like a duck to water — the physicality mixed with strategic thinking deeply appealed to him. He’d spend hours at the dinner table discussing strategy and replaying shots with our salt and pepper shakers and coins, drawing circles on sheets of paper. We began watching the Canadian women's and men's championships on TV. Our skills were barely passable but the passion was full blown.

Lisa and Julia didn’t show any interest in the actual game or in getting out on the ice. Our after-game chatter about shots missed and games won or lost appeared to go right over their heads. They’d tolerate the curling discussions but avoid them when they could. For them, the high point of being at the club was buying snacks at the bar.

We were driving home after an afternoon game, one in which I’d struggled throwing my rocks. I was bemoaning my play when Lisa piped up from the back seat. “You were a little wide on your out turns, Mom.” Ted and I simultaneously turned our heads to look at each other. “How did she know that?” I mouthed — and even more amazingly, she was right!

We were told that Lisa had to wait until she turned eight to join the little rocks program.  By then, we knew that wanted to play the game and seemed to have an affinity for it. That same year, the Granite sent Ted and me to Brockville to take the level one coaching course so that we could become instructors. After Julia began her curling career at age seven, the four of us were spending every Saturday morning on the ice.

Both girls were natural throwers. Ted’s strategy talks appeared to have sunk in through some mysterious osmosis. Before long, the Weagle sisters were to become regulars on the competitive little rocks circuit.


Brenda Chapman is Lisa Weagle's mother.  She is in South Korea with her husband Ted and son-in-law Robin to cheer on Team Homan.

Journey to South Korea

 6:05 a.m. Eastern - The largest group of our families and friends are en route! Nearly two dozen fans will travel through various airports today to make their way to South Korea. Fingers crossed for good weather (the forecast in Ottawa and Toronto isn’t great). Today we will document our journey as we #FlyTheFlag and head for our final destination: Gangneung, South Korea  (hopefully) some 24 hours later.

If you’ve been watching early coverage of the Olympics, you’re already aware that there are two main clusters of venues (Coastal and Mountain). Curling is in the Coastal Cluster which is in the city of Gangneung. We will be staying on the coast. So today for me includes a drive to Toronto’s airport thanks to Lisa’s husband Robin and her in-laws (this trip is a family effort for all involved!), a 14 hour flight to Seoul, a two hour high speed train to Gangneung and then a ~4km transport to the hotel on the coast of the East Sea. Others who we will link up with in Toronto are coming in from Ottawa and Alberta. I’m pretty excited to see an Air Canada 777 filled with families, fans and even some athletes and support staff headed to the Olympics! 

 

7:15 a.m. -  The plane carrying much of the Ottawa crew pushes back from the gate and is bound for Toronto. As this group starts their trip, it’s already been a few days for Joanne’s family who arrived in South Korea a few days earlier. It’s been great to be able to get information and answers from this group on what we should bring or prepare to pack. The Canadian Olympic Committee also provides each of us with a very detailed manual and Curling Canada has been answering our questions throughout. Which reminds me, I still have to buy electrical adapters at the airport departures lounge. Hopefully?  

 

8:20 a.m. - You know those sweet Team Homan pins we had specially made for family to give out to others at the Olympics?  When you tightly pack six bags of them in your carry-on bag, you’re going to get them searched at security.  A very friendly and curious CATSA agent asked what they were about and then asked if he could have one. “Maybe another for my buddy over there?”

 

10:30 a.m. - Passport? Check. Event passes? Check. Phone? In hand *repeat this check every 30 minutes for the last 24 hours* 

 

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11:09 a.m. - Boarding! A very full flight and conditions look decent. Row after row are families, partners of our team and fans! Intended to take a group shot or get some photos but my name got called to the gate counter and that turned out to be an error so I missed out on us getting a pre-boarding group shot. Maybe when we land in South Korea we will get something snapped. No wifi on this bird but will post updates once we land. Landing should be around 3 p.m. Monday Korea time (1 a.m. Monday Eastern).

 

12:03 p.m. ET - This is the only part of the trip where we don’t want ice. De-icing crews working to get AC61 ready for takeoff as we leave miserable weather behind. On the Olympic ice, Kaitlyn and John will be sliding around in the semi-final game of mixed doubles while we cross the Pacific. Wish we could be there to help Earle and Co. cheer loud but hoping for good news when we land.

 

12:20 p.m. - Wheels up! I’ll admit to a few goosebumps when the engines rolled up. We are off to the Olympics to support our friends/daughters/partners/nieces.


2:05 p.m. Korea time, the next day - Flying over Korea Bay and about 400 km from Seoul. It’s been a great flight. In mentally preparing for a 14 hour flight I probably overestimated the potential discomfort. That said, I’m not a competitor and I can’t imagine the impact this would have on their bodies. Rachel, Emma, Joanne, Lisa, Adam and later Cheryl made the trek just over a week ago. Their first stop was a few days in Japan to train and get adjusted. I wonder all of the things each sport federation and athlete learns from an Olympics that they then apply to the next one. It only rolls around every four years and for many competitors it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Curling has only been part of the modern Olympics five previous times, and only one time in this part of the world 20 years ago.

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5:01 p.m. - We’ve arrived in Korea! Processes quickly at the airport. No issues with luggage and now we just wait for the KTX high speed train. This train should take two hours and bring us from here on the west coast to the east coast.

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6:53 p.m. - We are now entering the 24th hour of travel. Somewhere between Seoul and Gangneung on the train in the dark.  

10:37 p.m. - Arrived at our hotel at 8:30 p.m. and checked in. A unique place! Happy to connect with Earle and Maureen Morris to get all their advice which was greatly appreciated! Congratulated the proud parents and promptly headed to Canada Olympic House to cheer on Mikael Kingsbury win Canada’s second gold medal. Also, Canada Olympic House is amazing! Despite being registered as a minor, we finished the evening off with a couple of Canadian beverages. 

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 Darren McEwen coordinates Team Homan's social media. He is a long-time friend of the team and will be in South Korea documenting the team's Olympic experience through social media and blogging.

Joanne's curling career shaped by early Ottawa visit

By: Ellen Taylor

Joanne started curling at seven years of age in the Little Rocks program, with her older brother David, at the Crestwood Curling Club in Edmonton.

Her Dad was among the coaches, and I helped him slap on duct tape to the bottom of the kids’ running shoes before they hit the ice. Even though the club had a set of small-sized junior curling rocks, the kids heaved the regular curling rocks down the ice. The strength and determination that propelled Joanne to the top of the climbing rope at her Saturday morning gymnastics classes enabled her to hit the twelve-foot before long.

 Joanne Courtney (Family Photo)

Joanne Courtney (Family Photo)

Joanne's birthday falls during the Brier. As a special birthday present, I took her to a draw at the 1999 Brier in Edmonton. Joanne made a sign that said "Extra Ends on my 10th Birthday" and was thrilled when she appeared on the big screen, holding it high over her head. Despite her wish, all of the games were over in 10 ends. Jeff Stoughton, who went on to coach Joanne in the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship, defeated the amiable and spirited Guy Hemmings in the final.

 Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee

Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee


In 2001, I took Joanne to the Brier in Ottawa to celebrate her twelfth birthday. It was a special mother-daughter trip, time away from Joanne’s older brother and two younger sisters and the busyness of our day-to-day lives. I remember her talking excitedly about the next curling season, when she would skip her first junior team. She was especially jazzed about getting team uniforms.

At that Brier, Joanne held court on strategy during tight games with curling fans sitting around us. She was appalled when I suggested that we skip a draw and visit a local art gallery. After much pleading, and flat out bribery involving sour cream and onion chips, bridge mixture and licorice, she gave in. We also managed to squeeze in a tour of the Parliament buildings.

At that Brier final, an elderly gentleman treated Joanne to gourmet ice cream, a first for her, and I remember that he said he would be looking for her at the Tournament of Hearts someday.

Joanne was inspired by the masterful shots made at that Brier, not unlike Rachel and Emma, her future teammates who also attended that same event, although more than a decade would go by until she would meet them.


Ellen Taylor is the mother of Joanne Courtney.  She is in South Korea cheering on Joanne with her husband Ryan, son-in-law Mark Courtney, daughter Erin, son David and daughter-in-law Tessa.