Saturday, February 16

Let's Stand Up For Michelle

I couldn't agree more.

Let's stand up for Michelle

Rob Vanstone, The Leader-Post
Published: Saturday, February 16, 2008

Suddenly, Michelle Englot is dealing with the Scotties Tournament of Heartbreaks.

The Regina curler, who is skipping Team Saskatchewan at the Canadian women's curling championship, learned early Friday morning that her father, Joe, had died on the family farm in Montmartre. He was 74.

Mere hours later, Michelle Englot was on the ice at the Brandt Centre, practising for her sixth Scotties. In the afternoon, Englot and her team members -- Darlene Kidd, Roberta Materi and Cindy Simmons -- competed in the Ford Hot Shots skills competition.

During the Hot Shots, Derek Schneider -- Englot's 17-year-old son -- occupied a front-row seat near his mother. The two shared an extended embrace shortly before Englot returned to the ice and positioned her broom near the button.

After Englot's Hot Shots obligations concluded, she spent a few minutes speaking with teammates and loved ones before approaching a handful of reporters.

"Are you ready?" one of them inquired.

Englot somehow managed a chuckle and said: "As ready as I'll ever be."

It was uncomfortable for everyone involved. The ever-accommodating Englot faced reporters at a time when she had every reason to decline.

CJME's Mitchell Blair posed the first question: "What's going through your mind right now?"

"I'm not quite sure yet ...," she said, pausing. "It's unexpected and very sad. I'm feeling for my mom and my brothers and sister. I'm just hoping to get through this."

A choked-up Englot responded to all lines of inquiry for a few minutes before being comforted by teammates. Two members of the Yukon/Northwest Territories team consoled the Saskatchewan skip before she walked away. Simmons put her arm around Englot as they approached the dressing room.

Somehow, Englot is going to compete in a prominent, nationally televised event in the midst of personal tragedy. Until Friday, Englot was upbeat about the way her life was going. And now this.

Englot is in the unenviable -- yet accustomed -- position of dealing with a private matter in very public fashion.

While watching curling, we watch ordinary citizens who are suddenly cast in the role of celebrities. People like Eric Tillman, Ken Miller, Kent Austin, Kerry Joseph, Brent Parker and Curtis Hunt sign up for this, and are compensated accordingly.

The curlers, by contrast, often end up paying for the privilege of competing in a national event. Time off from work is required. Other expenses are incurred as they curl for a trophy instead of cash.

However, the curlers often face more scrutiny and reveal more of themselves than most athletes. During televised matches, their every word is beamed across the country. There is no secrecy to the decision-making process as the cameras zoom in and the analysts weigh in. Coaches and quarterbacks rarely, if ever, face such an intrusion.

Life in the spotlight cannot be easy under ideal circumstances. Imagine what it must be like for Englot during these devastating days. She will be grieving in front of 6,000 people.

Hopefully, the hometown crowd will prove to be a source of strength and solace for a lady of class and courage. If anyone ever deserved a standing ovation at the Brandt Centre, it is Michelle Englot.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008