Carol Bernier doesn’t leave much room for doubt when she calls a shot.
“Right here,” she says, tapping the ice firmly with her broom as she holds her hand up to let her teammate know which way the rock needs to be turning.
“I like telling them how to throw the rocks and stuff,” said Bernier, the skip of the “Langley 1” rink at the annual Special Olympics Langley bonspiel held Sunday at the Langley Curling Centre.
“It’s an awesome sport,” said another Langley player, Bobbie Barth, who has been competing in Special Olympics curling events since 2001.
The all-day event attracted teams from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, including curlers from Vancouver, Abbotsford, Surrey, Coquitlam and Richmond.
The Vancouver rink finished first, with the Langley 2 and Langey 1 teams coming in second and third.
The Langley bonspiel comes a week after the regional curling qualifier was held in Abbotsford for the next Special Winter Olympics in B.C.
Athletes who competed in Abbotsford should know if they are going to the B.C. games by the fall, said Langley head coach Deb Kovacs, whose daughter Kati is among the competitors.
Kovacs said while the Langley event isn’t a qualifier, it is still taken seriously by the curlers.
“We don’t like to call it a ‘fun-spiel’,” Kovacs said.
“It’s still (an opportunity) for them to get experience for competition.”
The coach said the Special Olympics version of curling follows the Canadian curling association rules, with a notable difference being the use of pushing sticks by some competitors to launch the stones, stead of pushing off from the hack and sliding.
“A lot of our athletes do use sticks to deliver the rock because its easier for them to use that as opposed to getting out of the hack,” Kovacs said.
The Special Olympics B.C. (SOBC) website notes that curling programs are offered at selected clubs based on athlete interest in Nakusp, Kamloops, Penticton, Vernon, Kelowna, Princeton, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Surrey, Ridge Meadows, Abbotsford, Langley, Richmond, Burnaby, Delta, Vancouver, Squamish, Sunshine Coast, Port Alberni, Victoria, Comox Valley, Nanaimo, Oceanside, Powell River, Terrace, Smithers, Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Burns Lake, Prince George and Quesnel
Since 1980, Special Olympics B.C. (SOBC), a registered charitable organization, has provided sports programs and competitions for people with intellectual disabilities “enriching lives, and celebrating personal achievement through positive sport experiences” the website said.
An estimated 3,500 athletes participate in Special Olympics BC sports programs in 54 communities across British Columbia.
That includes 18 year-round sports, like curling.
The 2017-18 season of winter-sport regional qualifiers is currently underway to select the SOBC athletes who qualify for the 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games in Greater Vernon, which is expected to be the largest in B.C. history, with more than 800 athletes with intellectual disabilities from across the province and the Yukon attending to compete in eight sports from Feb. 21-23 next year.
Sports at the Greater Vernon Games will include five-pin bowling, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing and speed skating.
The provincial games are the provincial qualifiers to the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which will be the qualifier for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games.