Ottawa curler Graham Rathwell heads to Canadian club championship

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Team Ontario

Team Ontario at the Travelers Curling Club championship. L TO R: Wesley Forget, David Staples, Graham Rathwell, Sandy Staples. (Curling Canada photo)

It just might be their only chance.

Ottawa’s Graham Rathwell, 25, is playing at the Travelers Curling Club Championship for the first time and maybe his only time. It is a national. It is hard to get there.

“I am very excited and the whole team is excited and raring to go,” the Team Ontario second said from his hotel room in Kelowna, B.C.

It’s been a frantic fall for the squad. Zone action for Travelers was mid-October followed by the provincials a week later. The team plays out of the Cataraqui Golf and Country Club in Kingston, where the team won its club championship.

Wesley Forget is the skip and David Staples is third. They also are 25 years old. Their lead is 58-year-old Sandy Staples, who according to their second “is quite a strong sweeper.”

While studying for his masters at Queen’s University, Rathwell scouted for a team in Kingston. By coincidence Forget had played David and Sandy Staples in club play and wanted to form a team with them. The Ottawa players said, “I just so happened to come along at the right time.” They played together for two seasons before they won their club. Rathwell has admiration for their home club, which has offered equipment and even financial support.

“They have been supportive at every step,” he said.

So far the Ontario men (Ontario’s women’s team is from Lindsay) are impressed. Most of their expenses are covered by Travelers, including airfare, accommodation, many meals and other goodies. There is even a high-performance clinic. Paralympic gold medallist Sandra Gaudet threw the first rock that was swept by two-time national champions and world champions Sasha Carter and Pat Ryan while 1977 Brier champ Jim Ursel held the broom.

Every province, territory and northern Ontario is represented. The 14 men’s and 14 women’s teams are split into two seven–team round robin pools. The top three teams in each pool advance to the playoffs. The first-place teams will be seeded directly into the semifinals on Friday. The second- and third-place teams will meet in crossover quarterfinals Friday, with the winners moving into the semis. The semi-final winners will play for gold, and the losers will play for bronze on Saturday

The second says all his teammates “believe in the grassroots level of things — providing opportunities for teams that don’t have a lot of experience or who haven’t been able to break through to the next level — to get experience to be able to play under pressure in a bigger event.

“I think it’s contributing a lot to curling on the grander scale — hopefully seeing more teams say ‘you know what, I have a chance to make a national.’”

The Ontario team has an added incentive to do well in B.C. Its home club is hosting the 2017 Travelers.

CURLON RESULTS

The former Ontario Curling Association has a new name and new logo. The OCA is now CurlON. In U21 provincial qualifiers, winners were Emma Wallingford, Mary-Elaine Little, Jordie Lyon-Hatcher and Mac Calwell. They advance to January’s provincials in Russell.

END NOTES

TSN is broadcasting some of the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships from Glasgow, Scotland. The women’s final is Saturday morning at 5 and the men’s is at 10 a.m. … Manotick’s Jamie Sinclair and her USA team just qualified for the upcoming Continental Cup… The Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling from Brandon, Man., begins next Wednesday. The winners get berths in the Roar of the Rings, the Olympic qualifying tournament to be staged here in Ottawa in December 2017. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1.

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