• Burnaby Beacon
  • Posts
  • Special Olympics Canada curling team, Burnaby Wildcats, win gold

Special Olympics Canada curling team, Burnaby Wildcats, win gold

The Wildcats was the only all-women curling team at the national games in Calgary

It was a big moment for the Special Olympics Canada Burnaby Wildcats curling team when they realized their game against the Ontario York South team was over and they had won. At 9:11 am on Mar. 2, referees called the game for the Wildcats.  The score was Wildcats 9, Ontario York South 4. While the Ontario York South team was mixed, with female and male players, the Wildcats was the only all-female curling team at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games.

Team coach Debra Colvin was very proud. “It was an eight-year journey because they missed the last one,” Colvin said. “To get to the gold medal final and then to actually win the game, it was just a dream come true for them and their coach, it was pretty phenomenal.” 

Throughout the tournament, the team said they focused on doing their best, regardless of the results. 

The Wildcats were unique in that they were the only all-female curling team at the National Games in Calgary, and three team members are from the same family. Suzanne Armstrong is the mother of team members Mary and April; all three play on the same team. In January, the Beacon spoke with the Armstrongs and Colvin, who spoke about the challenges of participating in the Special Olympics and their hopes for the games. 

“We took it one game at a time. We were always the underdog going in,” Mary said, adding that they often started slow but would heat up in the later parts of each game. 

The Burnaby Wildcats. Front Row from left: Artisia Wong, Suzanne Armstrong, Mary Armstrong. Back row: Debra Colvin (coach), April Armstrong, Kim Davies, Tony Maniezzo (coach). Photo: Debra Colvin

Colvin described the experience of winning the gold medal as heart-thumping, nerve-wracking excitement. 

“They like to give their coaches an adrenaline rush in these games because they tend to bloom late,” Colvin said. “They really were unstoppable after they got their groove going. As a coach, it was such a joy to watch them.” 

The team members were so engrossed in the final game that they were unaware they had won. To add to the confusion, the referees took a while to call the game. 

“We were shocked at first because we didn’t even know for sure if we had won. We didn’t even look at the scoreboard,” Armstrong said. “I’m proud of the whole team; they did good, and of course, my two girls. I’m proud of them.” 

Mary, the team skip, could not believe it at first. 

“I was kind of in shock. We had to check with the referee,” she said. Mary was standing beside team member Artisia Wong, and they both looked at each other in disbelief. After that, they looked up at their coaches and supporters behind the glass barriers to see their reactions. 

“They were going nuts! We could hear them banging on the glass, screaming, shouting,” Mary said of friends and family members watching the game. 

The Calgary games took their toll on the women, each suffering minor injuries during the tournament. Armstrong experienced lower back pain, Mary had neck issues, and April injured her knee. April, in particular, was in great pain during the finals. 

When April discovered the game was over and the team had won, she said her first thoughts were, “I was happy, and I was like, yay, now I can sit and put my leg up.”  

In most sports, winning the gold medal would have qualified the team to join the Special Olympics World Games. However, curling is still not considered an Olympic sport. There is a growing movement campaigning to add curling to the Special Olympics World Games as a pilot program at the next games. Colvin hopes that they may be able to join. 

Now that the winter season is over, the Armstrongs are taking a break from curling and preparing for the summer games. April, who is still recovering from her injury, will soon start training for track and field with her father, while Suzanne and Mary will both prepare for baseball. 

In 2019, April attended the Special Olympics World Games in Dubai, where she won a gold medal in the 100-metre relay and a bronze medal in the javelin. 

As for repeating their win at future winter games, “Are we going to do this again?” Mary said, “I have no idea, but we’ll try.”

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

Like what you just read? Do you support local journalism? Help us keep going—and growing.

Sign up for our once a week newsletter, or become an Insider to show your love for local reporters and writers.