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February 13, 2007 > Fremont ladies lead USA to silver medal

Fremont ladies lead USA to silver medal

By Biff Jones

A former mathematics teacher and a physical education instructor from the California School for the Deaf (CSD) in Fremont decided to try their hand at the sport of curling and started learning the sport just seven months ago. Under the tutelage of Brent Halpenny, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club (SFBACC) Management Committee, SFBACC team coach Barry Ivy, and other Bay Area curlers, the women progressed rapidly and were selected to compete for the USA Women's Deaflympic's curling team.

The curlers trained and competed at Shark's Ice in Fremont on Saturday nights from 9:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. and at Logitech Ice in San Jose on Tuesday nights from 9:15 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. The "night owl" activity is the result of the cost and availability of ice time.

The CSD curlers from the Bay Area, JoDee Dike-Johnson of Fremont and Karen Officer of Los Altos, joined experienced curlers Valerie Fuechtmann and Elizabeth Matthews (the Skip), both from Minnesota, to compete in the 2007 Winter Deaflympics in Salt Lake City this past week. This is the fourth Deaflympics for JoDee Dike-Johnson, who is a PE instructor, and fourth different sport. The previous three were at the Summer Deafolympics. In 1993 it was basketball, 1997 bowling and 2001 team handball. Karen Officer has been teaching Career Awareness for all freshmen at CSD for the past two years.

The lady curlers first test against the team from Slovakia turned out to be the closest match of the Deaflympics for Team USA. The U.S. got off to a fast start by taking a 3-0 lead after three ends and a 5-1 lead after six ends. However the Slovakian women would not go away and were able mount a comeback and tie the score at 6-6 after nine ends. In the tenth and final end, the U.S. outscored Slovakia 1-0 to win the first match of the round robin phase 7-6.

In the second round robin match the U.S. went up against Croatia and came away with a relative easy 15-5 victory. Team USA would now face Canada in the final round robin match with both teams undefeated. Canada would roar out to an 8-0 lead after three ends and 11-1 after five ends before the U.S. got fired up after the break and closed the gap to 11-6 entering the ninth end. Over the last five ends Team USA outscored Canada 5-4 and almost had four more in the tenth end but their rock missed the take-out. The 15-6 defeat meant the U.S. would have to play Slovakia again in the semi-final for the right to meet Canada in the Gold Medal Game.

The semi-final match proved to be almost as exciting as the previous meeting between the two sides, as it was a back and forth struggle with a total of five lead changes or ties leading up to the ninth end which saw the U.S. holding a slim 7-6 lead. In the ninth end Team USA broke through with four and were then able to hold Slovakia to just one in the tenth end to preserve an 11-4 victory and a date with Canada for the Gold Medal.

In the Gold Medal match last Saturday morning, February 10, the more experienced Canadians were more than a match for the relatively raw Americans, as the Canadian defeated Team USA 17-4 to win the Gold Medal. For the U.S. women to even medal would have been a fantastic achievement in the sport of curling at the Deaflympics, but to take home the Silver is beyond comprehension. According to Officer, "We are really proud of ourselves and we will be more prepared to match the bar against the Canadians in four years. There will be World Deaf Curling Competition in 2009 somewhere in Europe (Finland, Sweden, or Switzerland) which is required in order to make curling an official sport for the next Deaflympics" (it was a demo sport this year). Congratulations on a job well done!

Anyone interested in taking up curling in the Bay Area, can contact SFBACC at e-mail address, .

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