In an exhilarating week of intense curling action at the Vernon Curling Club, Team Paul Flemming from Nova Scotia and Team Susan Froud from Ontario emerged as the top senior men's and women's Canadian champions at the 2023 Everest Canadian Senior Curling Championships.
These victorious teams have now earned the honour of representing Canada at the 2024 World Senior Curling Championships, scheduled to take place from April 20-27 in Östersund, Sweden.
In a thrilling showdown on the women's side, Ontario's Team Susan Froud outperformed Saskatchewan's Team Nancy Martin with a commanding 10-4 score. Meanwhile, in the men's division, Nova Scotia prevailed over Saskatchewan's Team Bruce Korte with a narrow 4-3 victory in the final match.
Team Nova Scotia, consisting of vice-skip Peter Burgess, second Marty Gavin, and lead Kris Granchelli, initiated the final with a crucial two-point score while maintaining their 2-0 lead until the fourth-end break, thanks to three consecutive blanks by Team Saskatchewan.
The fifth end witnessed a formidable challenge from Team Saskatchewan, presenting an opportunity to secure multiple points, but their attempt fell short, resulting in a single-point steal and a 3-0 advantage for Nova Scotia.
"I think the curling gods may have been on our side there in the fifth end. Bruce had a legit shot at three, maybe even four, so we caught a break there. Having said that, I thought we played pretty good and got ourselves out of a few jams," said Paul Flemming.
The crucial steal proved to be pivotal, as Team Saskatchewan mounted a comeback to level the score at three heading into the eighth end. However, Flemming displayed remarkable composure with a precision open hit on his final stone to clinch the senior men's national title.
"I never even looked over at that table once out there. The last thing you want to do is look too far ahead and think of results. It's just one end at a time and trying to manage control of the curling game," said Flemming.
Team Nova Scotia's journey to victory was almost thwarted as Flemming began his Vernon campaign hospitalized with a chest infection before being cleared to resume curling activities.
Additionally, Team Nova Scotia faced the elimination bubble entering the final draw of Championship Pool play but secured their playoff berth with an impressive 8-4 win over Team Saskatchewan on Friday evening.
Flemming reflected on the unpredictability of the sport, stating, "It's such a fragile game sometimes. It's such a fine line. Look at last night, for example. If we don't squeak through there against Saskatchewan, we're not even playing. So you don't take anything for granted."
Paul Flemming's impressive curling career includes 11 appearances at the Brier and two Canadian mixed championships, all representing Nova Scotia.
This victory marks his first opportunity to represent Canada on an international stage, with his previous closest chance coming as vice-skip for Nova Scotia at the 2005 Brier, where they narrowly lost in the final to eventual champion Randy Ferbey of Alberta.
Froud's Team Ontario, complemented by vice-skip Kerry Lackie, second Kristin Turcotte, lead Julie McMullin, and coach Al Corbeil from the Alliston Curling Club, displayed exceptional skill throughout the tournament, maintaining a 9-3 record leading up to their gold medal performance.
"Amazing. Absolutely amazing. We knew we could do it, we just had to play our game but didn't want to get ahead of ourselves. I'm so proud of the girls. They played awesome all week; we're such a great team," said Froud.
"I can hardly believe it. I'm just so proud of the team, and all our fans have been great all week. Our little team coming out of the little club of Alliston, really, so proud."
The final victory for Team Ontario was a tale of late resurgence, as they trailed Team Saskatchewan 4-2 at the fourth-end break. It wasn't until the latter half of the game that Team Ontario found their rhythm, scoring two points with the hammer in the fifth end, followed by consecutive steals of three in the sixth and seventh ends, ultimately securing their victory.
With this triumph in 2023, Ontario joins Saskatchewan at the top of the overall standings with 11 titles each, followed closely by British Columbia with eight. The Canadian Senior Women's Championship originated in 1973 in Ottawa.