An Airdrie-based curler will have the opportunity to wear Alberta’s colours at this year’s mixed-doubles national championship in Calgary.
On Jan. 19, Curling Alberta named its representative rinks for the Brier, Scotties,’ and mixed-doubles national championships this winter. With the curling season on hiatus and bonspiels cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial curling authority opted to invite last year’s provincial champions to the Calgary “bubble,” which will house the three national championships.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for Curling Alberta’s Board of Directors,” Steven Young, president of Curling Alberta, said in a release.
“As a province, we were faced with a unique set of circumstances in unprecedented times. No one could predict that we would be forced to make a decision like this, which we tried to avoid by pushing hard to host our championships. The board considered a full range of options in making this decision. Alberta is fortunate to have some of the world’s best curlers reside here. In all categories, we have several teams who are previous champions and are immensely deserving."
Curling Alberta’s decision means Airdrie’s Aaron Sluchinski will compete in the mixed-doubles event, which will be held March 18 to 25 at the Markin MacPhail Centre in WinSport. Sluchinski will curl alongside Calgary’s Brittany Tran, with whom he won the seniors mixed-doubles provincial championship last February.
“We’re definitely itching to get on the ice,” he said. “We want to get in good shape to perform at our best. At least we do have six to seven weeks before it starts, so hopefully there will be some restrictions lifted so we can get on the ice a little bit before the competition.”
Sluchinski said the postponement of the curling season in November 2020 has made it difficult to adequately prepare for the event. He said he and Tran only competed together at one bonspiel this season, before sports were once again postponed due to the worsening state of the pandemic in Alberta.
“We have a few games recorded on YouTube from our one spiel this year in Okotoks, so we watch that and talk about how it went,” he said. “That’s about all we can do right now.”
To minimize the potential spread of COVID-19, the national curling championships will be hosted in a hub facility in Calgary, under a similar model to how other professional sporting events have been able to continue since the onset of the pandemic.
According to Sluchinski, he and Tran will have to report to their hotel three days before the competition is underway. He added he will have to present a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed in and remain in quarantine until the tournament begins to ensure he does not bring the virus into the bubble.
“There’s COVID testing before you get there, when you get there and then you’re basically quarantining in your room for three days before you can get on the practice ice,” he said. “I think they’re taking all the steps necessary to make the event run and get the exemptions from AHS.”
Once competition is underway, no fans will be permitted to watch the championships, though they will be streamed and televised.
Despite the adverse conditions, a potential lack of preparation and strict health measures to abide by, Sluchinski said he is excited to compete at his first national championship in more than a decade. His only previous time representing Alberta at a Canadian championship came in 2008, when he competed at junior nationals.
“It’ll be great to put on the blue and yellow again,” he said.