Donaldson’s team headed to national curling finals
GRAVENHURST - Holly Donaldson is hoping second time’s a charm.
The 19-year-old daughter of Gravenhurst’s mayor, Paisley, and husband Fraser Donaldson, has struck a houseful of rarified air in the curling ranks.
For the second consecutive year, she and her fellow teammates on the Sinclair team of Manotick claimed the top spot in the 2013 Ontario Junior Women’s Provincial Curling Championships, held in London during the first week of January. It also gives them their second straight berth to the Canadian National Junior Curling Championships, to be held in Fort McMurray, Alberta from Feb. 2 through the 10th.
Donaldson, who plays vice-skip for the rink headed up by Jamie Sinclair, with Katelyn Wasylkiw and Erin Jenkins rounding out the lead and second spots, learned the game on the Gravenhurst Curling Club’s ice as a child and if all goes well at nationals, she said she could allow herself to think about the potential of an Olympic team tryout.
“I would like to think that’s something in reach for me one day if it was something I could dedicate the time to,” she said. “But we’re still students (she’s in her second year of four in nursing at Western University in London) and it’s a lot of time.
“For provincials this year, we’ve been practicing pretty much nine months straight now and still juggling classes,” she said, adding two of her teammates are in near-by Guelph, but another is based in Ottawa, so finding time for all four to practice together can mean having to wait for weekends.
To make the provincial championship, Ontario’s top eight teams won their way there by completing zone and regional competitions in the top spot. Through a seven-game round-robin tournament, the Sinclair rink went 6-1 and earned a bye straight to the final round, leaving the next top three teams to battle it out between themselves in semi-final rounds.
“Most of the teams we’d already played (earlier in the season) and we knew which teams would be the ones to beat,” Donaldson said. “And in the end, you want to play the best.”
That team would be the rink of Caitlin Romain of K-W Granite and the final round for the championship was one Donaldson called “tense.” Her team won out 6-3, but it took a stumble by Romain, who blanked four straight ends. Romain held the hammer in the 10th end, but missed her role and the defending champions stole two for the victory.
“I think I got a few more grey hairs on that Sunday; that was pretty intense,” said proud mother, Mayor Donaldson who spent the week watching Holly play. “The skill and the level of competition at the provincials is incredible; I wish I could take some credit for it, but that’s all natural talent that she didn’t get from me.”
Young Donaldson did admit she got into the sport of curling through her parents, when she would spend weekends as a child watching them play fun games in the Gravenhurst rink. From those humble beginnings, she now plays for a team that is one of only four from Ontario that have ever won provincial finals in back-to-back years.
“It is pretty uncommon and I think it’s something we can be very proud of this year,” she said.
Last year the team missed out of the playoff rounds in the national finals and Donaldson said it was an awe-inspiring event and a little intimidating.
“We had never been to nationals before and really we weren’t expecting much in the way of results,” she explained. “We ended up in fourth and I think in the end that was a great result; that year, even just being there was kind of the prize for us.
“But we know what we did wrong last year; we’ve practiced on correcting that all season and we know our strategy going into finals this year,” she added. “We’re going in there this year looking for that big prize.”
In Fort McMurray, each team will only get 10 minutes of practice time on each sheet before the tournament begins, from there on out, it will be read and adapt she said.
“We’re a good two-way team; we know when we need to be aggressive and we know when we need to be a little more defensive in our approach,” Donaldson said. “It’s that first game you have to really watch out for; but once we get to know the ice and how it’s playing, we should be in fine shape from there on out.”