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Olympic Celebration Tour stops at Harwin

Harwin Elementary School had Olympians in the gym.

Tom Brewster and Karri Willms visited the school on Friday morning and introduced students to the sport of curling. Brewster, from Scotland, won a silver medal with Team Great Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while Willms – who lives in Vernon – won bronze with Team Canada at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, when curling was a demonstration event.

Brewster and Willms were in Prince George as part of the World Curling Federation’s Olympic Celebration Tour. In March, the city will host the World Women’s Curling Championship, which made P.G. an ideal stop for the tour.

Brewster, Willms and Scott Arnold, head of development for the World Curling Federation, presented the basic rules of curling to three different groups of Harwin students and asked them questions about the sport. Brewster and Willms handed their Olympic medals to the kids, posed for photos with the youngsters and then offered guidance as students gave floor curling a try.

Afterward, Brewster said one of the things he loves about curling is the social aspect – making friends and meeting people all around the world.

“My wife (Kim) is Canadian,” said Brewster, who was nine years old when he threw his first curling rock. “(Curling) has opened so many doors, and I think that’s a huge benefit of the sport for kids. It’s the social aspect and how it brings the kids together. On top of that, there’s the health aspect. I’ve got young kids as well and I think it’s good that kids get out and play, and compete. I think competing is a good thing and healthy thing as well.”

Brewster has competed for Scotland in the men’s world championship five times and has been on the medal podium four times (silver in 2011 and 2012, bronze in 2002 and 2013). At the 2014 Winter Olympics, his Great Britain team lost in the gold-medal match to Canada’s Brad Jacobs.

Brewster said curling also teaches perseverance.

“Not only individually, but as a team,” he said. “You are a team but it’s only a team of four members and it’s like having a table – if one leg breaks down, the whole table is useless. It falls over. It’s not like a football team or a soccer team where you can almost carry a player. You can’t do that in curling so everybody needs to come together and support each other, which is really important, and find out solutions. How do we find a solution to overcome the problem we’ve had? And you do that as a unit, as a team. That’s what the good teams do well.”

Willms, who was 12 when she took up curling, considers it an “incredible sport” for kids.

“It’s got so many different factors involved,” she said. “Even them learning the sport to begin with. I’ve found in working with kids, maybe they’re not athletic but they enjoy something like math or chess. So curling offers strategy. The fitness side of it, the technique, that can be taught. There are positions like a skip or a third for those (analytical) mindsets. Curling involves different individuals, different types of people. It’s just a very unique sport.”

Willms has competed in the Canadian women’s curling championship three times with Team B.C. (1991, 1992 and 1993) and won gold in her first appearance. At the world championship that year, the team – skipped by Julie Sutton – claimed the silver medal after a 4-3, extra-end loss to Norway in the final.

At the 1992 Winter Olympics, the Sutton foursome defeated Denmark 9-3 in the bronze-medal game.

While Willms made it to the highest levels of the sport, she noted that curling can be played for a lifetime on a recreational basis.

“It’s a really fun sport just to go out and be social and joke around and just play and be with friends,” she said. “It provides that as well. You can just throw. Maybe you’ve only played a few times but you can easily get in and just start playing.”

Harwin was the only school the Olympic Celebration Tour visited on Friday. Today (Saturday), Brewster and Willms will spend time with junior players at the Prince George Golf and Curling Club. Arnold said some Harwin students may also be on the ice.