While some athletes know from the very first moment they have found their sport, that was not the case with Marla Mallett.
The first time she picked up a curling rock, she was not a happy camper.
Just six or seven years old at the time, her reason for being on the ice was more practical than anything else: Mallett’s parents co-ordinated the junior program in Williams Lake.
“In order to keep their eyes on me, I had to be on the ice,” Mallett said.
“I absolutely hated it,” she said with a laugh. “I was frustrated because I was so small, I couldn’t get the rock all the way down the ice.”
She overcame her initial reluctance to stick with curling, while also keeping busy as a competitive swimmer and figure skater. But over the next few years, she dropped one sport and then the other, until only curling remained.
Mallett was around 12 years old when she realized curling was the one for her and it coincided with her first trip to the provincial championships.
Nearly four decades after throwing her first rock — and after a two-year hiatus — the now 46-year-old is still going strong, getting set for next week’s Scotties BC women’s curling championship.
It will be held in Duncan, with teams from around the province vying for the right to represent B.C. at next month’s Scotties national Tournament of Hearts.
Mallett would love nothing more than another shot at nationals. Having competed at provincials countless times over the years, Mallett has three times advanced to nationals.
She has also had international success, capturing the world junior championship title back in 1988.
Back after break
“I just needed to re-juice the batteries. I had played for so long at such a high level, the commitment was big and I needed a bit of a break,” explained Mallett, who moved to Langley about a dozen years ago.
And she wasn’t looking to return to the sport but got what she called an offer she could not pass up.
The trio of Shannon Oleksiak and sisters Brette Richards and Blaine DeJager were looking for a skip.
Mallett had never played with any of them but knew them each well from going up against them.
The team formed back in June and the past year has been successful but not without its challenges.
For one thing, none of the four live in the same town and only Mallett and Oleksiak, who lives in Abbotsford, are relatively close to one another. Richards is in Kelowna while DeJager is in Prince George.
That means regular practice time altogether is rare, although Mallett and her 13-year-old daughter Ashley, and Oleksiak and her 11-year-old daughter Brooklyn play as a foursome each week out of the Golden Ears Winter Club.
Mallett’s rink may not practise regularly, but they do enter cashspiels and co-ordinate weekend training sessions when their schedules allow.
“Just really getting to know one another, and each other’s characteristics,” she said.
“How we are going to react in good and bad situations, how to bring the best out of them. What can I do to support them and vice-versa.”