A curler who won Olympic gold for Canada came to Wadena for a weekend to help raise money and teach young people interested in the sport.
Marc Kennedy came to the East Central town Oct. 26 and 27 after Scott Comfort, the local curling club manager, reached out to him. Comfort has been all around the curling world, having managed a club in Regina and served on the Curling Canada executive.
“He reached out to see if I would be interested in doing a fundraiser with the Health Action Group and also to do a clinic with some of the young curlers here,” Kennedy said. “It seemed like a good opportunity to get out to a small community, talk curling, share some curling stories and meet some great people.”
Comfort was the middleman, not only booking Kennedy for the Health Action Group’s auction, but also getting him to talk to around 350 students from local schools. Comfort also managed to bring curlers Pat Simmons, Gerald Shymko and Jan Betker up to Wadena. The four celebrity curlers skipped a match against each other, using players that bid for the right to be on their teams.
“It will be fun,” Betker said before the game. “I don’t think anybody’s taking the curling too seriously. It’s just a fun event and a great way to earn some money for a worthwhile cause.”
Comfort said it was Kennedy’s first time in Wadena. Kennedy is from St. Albert, Alta.
“I knew he was one of the nicest guys on the tour and one of the nicest guys in curling, so I knew he’d be well welcomed and appreciated,” he said.
At the auction, Kennedy said he shared his Olympic experiences with the audience.
“I took them on a bit of a journey that I went on the last few years in my own competitive game, the highs and lows of being a high performance athlete,” he said. “Winning a gold medal in Vancouver was definitely a high. Finishing fourth in Korea was a definite low. We won a Brier in Ottawa in 2016, lost the Brier final in 2017. You quickly go from the highest of the highs in our sport to the lowest of the lows and you just have to manage that.”
He added that managing the highs and lows is a part of living life and can be related to everyday experiences.
Kennedy said that at the clinics, his focus was the fundamentals.
“We’ve been working on what are the little things that make curlers good, what can you do to get better and sharing some of the tools that some of the best teams are using,” he said, adding later that some of those tools included sweeping techniques, set-up, dealing with the hack, how to slide properly and throwing the right weight. “Being able to pass those on to young curlers is important.”
Kennedy is taking a year off of professional curling, taking the opportunity to focus on teaching junior clinics, trying to give back to the sport he loves and spending time at home with his kids. He said he enjoyed his visit to Wadena.
“Wadena’s been incredibly welcoming to me. I’ve seen a lot of hometown hospitality while I’ve been here and met some great people. It’s an opportunity I’m very thankful for, to be able to do this and share some time with the kids.”