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Canada’s Top Women’s Skips Team Up With Blakes to Open Curling Competition

February 28, 2024

The first rocks are out of the hack and curling is underway.

Two of Canada’s top Olympic medal-winning women’s skips – Cheryl Bernard (Co-Chair of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024) and Shannon Kleibrink, teamed up with Games Ambassador, Darby Taylor, and Michael Barrett of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, the esteemed Platinum Partner of the curling event, to throw the first rock.

“Blakes has a tradition of being involved in our Calgary community. We know the Games are a combination of years of training for athletes across Canada, and the experience of a lifetime for many. As a celebration of excellence and inclusivity, the Games also embody the type the type of leadership and community building that we strive for at Blakes,” said Barrett.

Curling has a rich history at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games that originated in the small town of Gimli, Manitoba

Nestled on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, a group of passionate individuals gathered with a vision in mind. It was the early 1980s, and they were determined to create opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to experience the joy of sports, camaraderie, and competition.

Among these pioneers was a dedicated group from Special Olympics Canada, an organization committed to enriching the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport. The town had a strong tradition of curling, a sport that involved sliding heavy stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area that is segmented into four concentric circles. Inspired by the inclusivity and teamwork inherent in curling, they saw an opportunity to introduce this beloved Canadian pastime to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

In 1986, the first Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games took place in Banff, Alberta, and curling made its debut as an official sport in the event. Athletes from across the country, each with their own story of determination and resilience, took to the curling sheets to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

Over the years, the sport became a symbol of unity, breaking down barriers and proving that the love for competition knows no bounds. The athletes, with their infectious enthusiasm and unwavering spirit, inspired communities to embrace the principles of inclusion and acceptance.

“Sport really has the extraordinary power to unite people, break down barriers, and most importantly foster inclusion,” said Cheryl Bernard. “It transcends differences and creates a level playing field where everyone can participate, compete, and belong. Through sport, we build a more inclusive society that celebrates diversity and empowers individuals to reach their full potential. That is the value of sport.”

Today, in the heart of Gimli, Calgary and communities across Canada, Special Olympics curlers continue to make history. They forge friendships on the ice, celebrate victories, and overcome challenges, proving that the true essence of sports lies not just in competition but in the shared joy of the game. The history of curling with Special Olympics Canada is a testament to the transformative power of sports in building a more inclusive and compassionate society.

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