Weyburn students have chat with Olympic mentor

Weyburn students had the chance to live chat with an Olympic curler, Joanne Courtney, on April 16 as part of the Classroom Champions program, and were able to ask questions of her directly about her sport and her life.

One of the classes that did the live chat was Raeanne Leffler’s Grade 5 class at St. Michael School, and they heard about Courtney’s experiences as a curler and as an expectant mom.

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She plays second on skip Rachel Homan’s rink, who represented Canada at the Winter Olympic Games in 2018, and has recently stepped down from that team as she is expecting a baby in July.

Courtney returned to her profession as a nurse, and said it was getting too hard to bend down and throw rocks and sweep properly on her curling team.

“I get to help people. It’s been really good getting back to work and being a nurse,” she said.

Asked how her curling season went this past year, Courtney noted that they played at the Scotties, the national women’s curling championships, and was disappointed they didn’t emerge as the winner.

“But we had a really great season. We won lots of Grand Slam events, and we’re ranked No. 1 in the world right now. We had hoped to represent Canada at the worlds, but it was really cool to get to play,” said Courtney.

She noted that on the winning team from the Scotties, she knew two of the players for about 12 or 13 years, and added, “We like all the teams we played against.”

A student asked how she has enjoyed being their mentor through the Classroom Champions program, Courtney replied, “It’s been awesome. This was my first time doing it, and being in touch with you throughout the year has been really cool.”

She said it’s easy for her to get caught up in her competitions, and finds it’s been good for her to talk to the students about the life lessons and challenges they get to do.

“It gives me perspective, and it’s been really great to know you guys,” she added. “I love your enthusiasm and how hard you have been working.”

Courtney was asked which was her favourite city to visit as a curler. “It’s hard to choose just one. It was cool last year to go to China — that was a cool experience,” she said, adding she also played in North Dakota recently, and one of the students from the Classroom Champions program was there, which was very exciting for her.

As for some of her favourite activities, Courtney said she loves taking her dog for long walks, and tilted her laptop computer so she could show the class her dog resting nearby.

The lessons she has been doing with the students have also been a very good reminder to her as an athlete and as a person, Courtney said, noting that anytime a difficulty came up in her life, she was reminded why those lessons are important.

“I was competing in Newfoundland when I did a video for a lesson on perseverance, and I remembered it was important to persevere and keep trying to reach your goal. These online chats are a really good reminder for me, so I’m also living by what these challenges ask you to do,” said Courtney.

Asked what her favourite part of the Classroom Champion program is, Courtney replied, “I really like seeing what you guys are going to try after watching my program. It’s really neat seeing how you do a challenge. That part is really inspiring to me.”

As for continuing to be a mentor for other students, she said she would like to be, but it might have to wait until after she has her baby.

Asked what is the most important thing she’s learned as a mentor, Courtney said, “That’s such a good question. With all these themes and challenges, it has to be to believe in yourself. It’s that belief knowing you’re going to go into something and try as hard as you can, and never give up on yourself. I learned that the most important thing for me, no matter what, is that you’re going to try to reach your goal. That belief in yourself is so important.”

Courtney was asked what her favourite motto is for her life, and she replied, “If it was easy, then everybody would be doing it. When I’m in a challenging situation, this is something I like to remind myself of. It makes me remember that hard things are worthwhile, it’s usually not going to happen overnight. You have to work and work and never give up.”

One of her favourite experiences as an athlete was at the Winter Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies, said Courtney, as she got to walk in with Team Canada, along with athletes from all around the world, and seeing the huge spectacle of the ceremonies in the stadium was amazing.

Asked if Classroom Champions would have made a difference to her as a child, Courtney said, “I do, I absolutely do, to learn what qualities are needed to succeed. There’s a whole bunch of other qualities that can be very important later in life, such as the importance to persevere and to set goals.”

Todd Bedore of Crescent Point Energy was on hand for the live chat, as his company is a major sponsor of the Classroom Champions program, and at the end of Courtney’s chat time, he had some comments to make to her and to the class.

“I just wanted to say thank you for all you do for Classroom Champions.”

He noted that Crescent Point’s sponsorship of the program is part of their donations program, and they help provide across Western Canada and in the U.S.

Bedore noted to the students that while science and math tests might be hard for them, their mentor had to work really, really hard to help her team make it to the Olympics and represent Canada at that level.