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  • Loree Rayback

Turns Out Curling is Completely Worth the Drive

The curling matches on Sunday started late with the last game ending at 9:30pm, families and dedicated fans remaining in the bleachers until the very end.

Grandmother and dedicated Curling fan, Judy McLeod drove her family roughly 1400 miles (over 28 hours) to get to Palmer, Alaska from Inuvik, Northwest Territories–all to cheer on her granddaughter, Kimberly Wainmen, as she competed for a Golden Ulu with team NT.

“We’ve always been involved in Arctic Winter Games, we’ve done a lot of traveling with the youth,” Judy told the Ulu News, pointing to her family members accompanying her in the stands. “My daughter played badminton for three AWGs, and my son played hockey three times as well.”

Christine Mamer from Whitehorse also drove with her four younger children and her husband. They left Saturday morning and arrived Saturday night, pushing all the way through in one go. Despite a long haul and a hotel mixup upon arrival, the Mamer family says they’re comfortable. Mamer told the Ulu News that their trip was nearly canceled, as they only received their updated passports just a few days ago. Her son, Gabriel Mamer, is one of newest members on the team, only becoming an official curler in October of last year when he was approached by the curling coach to fill the fourth position on the Northern Territories team.

Melissa and Melanie Richards from Team Alaska were well represented in the bleachers by their family from Fairbanks and Palmer. Uncle Frank Gonzalez said their parents, Mary and Brad Richards dropped the girls off at the team bus and then drove to Palmer yesterday from Fairbanks. Mary said the girls have competed for 9 years in curling, last year in Wood Buffalo AWG, and in the Junior Nationals in Denver (CO) in January where their team came in fourth. “This is the first chance we’ve had to come and support them and this is the last year they will be able to compete because they’ll both age out after this competition. We as parents are both so proud of not only our daughters, but also the other two teammates because they’ve all come so far.”

Robert Nelson plays for the Alberta North U18m division, and his team had a BYE on Sunday. “We won gold last year, so we’re back to defend our title.” Alberta North Coach, Amanda Spark, said her daughter, Kaily has been playing for about four years, “not long” according to Spark.

“My skip has been playing since she was 6 years old– she’s 16 now. I’ve been coaching her for 2 years. We flew out this morning and took a bus to Palmer from Anchorage, it was a beautiful bus ride. We got here in good time and a chance to check out Palmer. We found Bigfoot! He was kind of scary.”

Nunavut Hockey Coach, Shauna Beaton, was in the stands to watch her son, Ciaran Robinson compete at the curling match. Because she is also a coach, she traveled with her team. She’s coached 3 AWG games, but Cieran just started curling in October. “Unfortunately, they didn’t have an ice surface to practice on, the ice rink was taken away in January for another event, so the curling team did manage to have a prep camp in February so they could get some practice prior to the Games. The 3rd and the skip are brand new to curling this year. We’re telling them this is a new experience and a new sport for them, they should see what they can put forth next year to keep growing as a team.

Another parent, Leander Slykhuls (coaching curling since 2020) coaches his son’s curling team, Team Yukon. When strict covid rules changed the scout curling competitions, Leander decided it was time to do something about it. He suggested he could start his own team, and told that he was on his own, that's exactly what he did. Leander had never coached before, but he called his buddy Lee Malenchuk and they put together a team. His son Luke (a curler since he was 6) along with the skip and several others, formed a team and have been playing their hearts out ever since.

For more information about curling in Palmer, go to palmercurling.com, or contact President Cynthia Rosenberg or Public Relations Officer Kalie Owen.

Curling Vocab:

BYE - When a player advances to the next round of play without competition.

Skip - Captain of a Curling Team


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