By HARVEY ROSEN
If readers don’t recognize the name of CAROLYNE LINDNER, she is the daughter of Jill Brandes, who is a former fine columnist with this publication.
I must admit that having spoken with Carolyne on the phone a few days ago, I rapidly became an admirer of the well-spoken young woman who taught me a few lessons about life which shall hold me in good stead forever and a day.
You see, my subject doesn’t like to draw attention to herself, but she is a double amputee resulting from a near death experience she went through four or five years ago. And as you shall clearly see, she’s a scrapper who didn’t take the giant setback lying down. Carolyne was determined to make the best of a horrendous situation and to shun a “poor-me” attitude.
When I first spoke with Carolyne, she was on a high because she had just received some good news: “I’ve just made Team Manitoba’s Wheelchair Curling Team and it’s a big deal to get to go to Boucherville, Quebec for the 2017 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship in April.
“I started curling earlier last year and we train four times a week at the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club. Every Saturday we play able-bodied curlers - which is really good for our training. The difference between regular curlers and us is that we cannot sweep because we don’t have that ability being in a wheelchair.
“We curl using long sticks. There’s a rectangle piece at the end of the stick you hook around the rock. There’s a skip and of course he tells us how to aim and then another one of my team members holds my chair and you throw your rock and wherever it lands, it lands, because there is no sweeping,” she explained.
“It’s really amazing because of my skip (Dennis Thiessen) who is part of Team Canada too. He went to the Sochi Olympics and the rest of the men are very accomplished men. I’m the only woman on the team.
Carolyne went on to express how appreciative she is to have been taken in by such a cordial sporting group and what it has done for her personally: ”For me its my first foray into a wheelchair sport. Everything else I do when I have my prosthetic limbs on is I walk everywhere, run, can drive a car and am probably more capable than most (other drivers who have no disabilities).
“I’ve never done a sport in a wheelchair and I really have a feeling of empowerment. I feel very strong. I find curling is an incredible sport! It’s nice that there are so many opportunities for people who have mobility issues. To think that when I met Dennis, who offered to teach me to curl, I wasn’t really interested, but I finally gave in and they were all surprised at how talented I was. I’m the type of person who just goes with the flow.”
“We’re all in wheelchairs, including the skip. He is an amputee too and the other two members are paraplegics. The Paralympics are for people who either are missing limbs or not able-bodied to some extent.
“As for my prosthetic limbs, I wear them for balance while I’m curling. Otherwise I’m like a Terry Fox who walked around (solely) with his.
“I went to high school at Kelvin and Grant Park and (modestly added) have also earned two post-secondary degrees.”
Carolyne, always a physical-fitness buff, can often be seen working out at the Rady Centre where she runs, is a biker, and also participates in the popular Zumba classes.
“I was very into physical fitness,” she stated with pride. “ I think what I’ve learned after what happened to me is - you just go with it. And if someone comes into your life and asks you to try something new, you do it even if it’s something you’re not passionate about.
“I learned a lot. I got my legs to run on blades within three months. It’s incredible! I’m missing a part of my lung.; so I do get tired easily. But when you have a mobility issue you need to stay strong. I want to do that so that I can always be able to walk.”
Carolyne, an extremely insightful individual, also pointed out that our aging population can also benefit from the kind of exercises that her group performs, to wit:
“ I understand there are a lot of Jewish curlers in our population and a lot of them have stopped (curling) because its difficult getting down on the ice, but there are all sorts of adaptations they can make with sticks even if they wanted to do wheelchair curling. There are a lot of people who have had a spinal cord injuries, like vets. There is no reason why someone with a degenerate injury can’t play a wheelchair sport. It’s so empowering.
“ Theoretically, for me, I can easily have a fall with my prosthetic legs and break a hip. I don’t think about that. I tend to think of myself more like a senior in the sense that they are more prone to falling and breaking things, but I can’t live my life like that. It’s a good thing to share with people of an older graphic. You gotta keep going.” And she does with zest.
Now let’s rock with Jewish curler Kyle Doering (whose grandfather, Bill Lifchus, once wrote a financial column for this paper). When I last spoke with the personable young Doering, who is now 21, it was in 2012 when he was in high school in West Kildonan. The then-skip had just led his team to a Canadian Junior title.
Last year his junior curling team won the Canadian championship and earned a bronze medal in Copenhagen, Denmark at the World Junior Curling Championship.
A matter of two weeks ago Kyle played second with the Jason Gunnlaugson rink that was gunning for the Manitoba Men’s curling title in Portage La Prairie in the Vittera Championship. He tells me that they played well and wound up with an impressive record of 9-3. Held in high regard by his skip, he holds the broom for Jason when he throws.
Kyle, with his versatility and knowledge of the roaring game reminds me somewhat of a solid utility player in baseball. He was in conversation recently at the Granite Curling Club with our Bernie Bellan and inquired if the Jewish Post & News would be interested in sponsoring his “Mixed Doubles” curling team. The latter game is a new and exciting variation of the sport and will be featured in the next Olympic games.
Needless to say, as many other Jewish kids (athletes) have learned over the years, financial support is a must if they hope to compete, say, in the Maccabiah or Maccabi games, they require support.
In any event, Bellan was prepared to sponsor the team with a gold member contribution of $200. Doering was extremely gratified for Bellan’s generosity and asked me to thank him again.
Kyle explained that he and his girlfriend, Ashley Groff, are working hard “to qualify for the Canadian mixed doubles championships as well as Olympic mixed doubles curling trials”.
Doering shared that he met his partner about two years ago at the Granite. “She was curling there and just happened to be practicing and I started talking to her. It was a common interest we had and so through the great sport of curling we met and I owe the game a lot,” he said passionately.
Kyle is at present in fourth year Business Administration at the U of Winnipeg, something he greatly enjoys, while Ashley is in Education and aspires to become a kindergarten teacher.
Best of luck to the dandy duo. Hope they achieve their goals on all counts.
Lastly, on a curling note, I seem to recall when there was much concern about the sport of curling in these parts in that young people weren’t gravitating towards the game. Perhaps they were seeking more macho sports where their chances of acquiring a broken limb or a concussion had more appeal.
The game is spreading all over Europe. I also recall when Israel became involved. Yes, there is an “Israel Curling Federation.” I recall an article that I wrote which featured the likes of 1965 Brier winner Terry Braunstein, a Curling Hall of Famer, getting involved along with his buddy Ray Turnbull as instructors/teachers. Last April, Israel was represented by a team led by our own Gary Gumprich (who skipped) at the World Senior Curling Championship held in Karlstad, Sweden. (The other members of the team were Americans. The rules for participating allowed Israel to be representeded by non-Israelis.)
The writer, a Jewish Winnipegger, is a former school teacher, and covers football and hockey for Canadian Press and Broadcast News.