Wednesday, February 20

The Cheers Drew Tears

Saskatchewan curling fans are tough!

When you wear the green, they expect you to win; they also expect you to play well, especially at home.

So when the hometown skip shoots 41% in a one-sided loss, she doesn't expect a standing ovation.

Cheers and tears at the Scotties

by Murray McCormick, The Regina Leader-Post
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The cheers drew tears.

A Tuesday afternoon crowd of 3,819 at the Brandt Centre saluted Saskatchewan's Michelle Englot with a standing ovation after she was beaten 8-4 by Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Englot acknowledged the tribute at the Canadian women's curling championship with a wave and a smile.

Seconds later, Englot was battling tears. Englot, who left immediately after Tuesday's game to attend her father's funeral in Montmartre, wasn't able to control her emotions any longer. Joe Englot, 74, died Friday of a heart attack at the family farm in Montmartre.

Michelle Englot was embraced by her teammates when she reached the end of Sheet A. The diminutive skip's shoulders were shaking as she finally gave in to her grief.

"What a strong lady," Nova Scotia lead Nancy Delahunt said while wiping away tears after the win. "I've always had so much respect for her. Now I respect her more for maintaining her commitment to the team. Her boys (Bret and Derek) were here and she is setting such a wonderful example for her family by doing the most difficult thing that she has ever done.

"She is leading her whole family and I expect they will look to her as a beacon and a leader. There is always someone who emerges at times like this and Michelle is that one."

Englot wasn't available to speak to the media after the game. The team rushed from the Brandt Centre to Montmartre to make a 7 p.m. funeral. There was also a viewing at 5:30 p.m. that Englot was hoping to make.

Englot, Darlene Kidd, Roberta Materi and Cindy Simmons made the 90-kilometre trip to Montmartre in private vehicles. Some of the curlers, along with representatives from the host committee, the Saskatchewan Curling Association and the Canadian Curling Association, boarded a chartered bus to attend the funeral. The players in the evening draw wore green ribbons as a sign of the support for Englot.

"I can't imagine doing it," Delahunt added when asked about the game. "The family will find a lot of strength in watching what Michelle does."

Englot looked sharp Tuesday morning while beating Kerry Galusha of the Yukon-Northwest Territories 9-4 to increase Saskatchewan's winning streak to four games.

Englot dealt with a crush of media after politely informing them that members of the team wouldn't be available for interviews after the match against Nova Scotia.

"I just wanted to get going right after the game," Englot said.

Against Nova Scotia, Englot's mind was obviously on more important matters. She faced a number of difficult shots, which she wasn't able to execute. Englot made only 41 per cent of her shots before shaking hands in the eighth end.

"You feel sympathy and empathy for her in that situation," Arsenault said. "Not that it is wrong what she's doing but I don't know if I would have the guts to do that."

Englot has been a rock, at least in public. She is the manager of external communications with SaskTel and had the foresight to let media know of her intentions regarding interviews. She was greeted by the largest scrum of the Scotties after her win over Galusha.

During that scrum, Englot paid tribute to her father.

"I learned to curl with my dad," said Englot, who is appearing in her sixth Scotties but her first as the skip of the hometown team. "He used to let me skip during club curling in Montmartre. He was very hard on me but that that's why I am where I am today."

Materi said that Joe Englot was always at the rink when Michelle played.

"He was a silent man and I'll bet it was hard on his nerves at times," said Materi. "But he was also very supportive. I think in her heart that she knows he's here. We're playing for him and we know that he's watching."

The afternoon loss dropped Englot to 4-3 and sixth place before last night's draw. She had a bye Tuesday night and another this morning before returning to action at 2 p.m. today against Heather Strong of Newfoundland-Labrador. Englot plays Manitoba's Jennifer Jones in the 7 p.m. draw.

"I think we will be fine," Englot said when asked about regrouping from the funeral. "We have plans to meet as a team around noon. Then, we'll go from there."
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008