For Correctional Service of Canada employee Nancy Martin, elite-level curling is a team effort in more ways than one.
Nancy, who competed on-ice with teammate Catlin Schneider at the 2018 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Olympic Trials last month, also credits off-ice support from her family and her CSC colleagues for allowing her to pursue her passion.
“My colleagues have been awesome, and my boss has been awesome,” Nancy said from Saskatoon, where she works as the regional manager for the Offender Management System (OMS). “The whole crew in IMS and my crew in OMS has been amazing.” Nancy also said her work space is located near the group from Aboriginal Initiatives Division and that they were all following along as well.
“If you don’t have that support, and support from your family, it’s impossible.”
Nancy’s road to the Olympic trials began when she took up curling in Grade 7 in the small town of Lanigan, Saskatchewan. She and her friends would go to the local rink every day after school. As her skills improved, she eventually started playing in regional and provincial playdowns.
She graduated high school and moved to Prince Albert, where the demands of working and having a young family contributed to a brief pause from curling. She picked up the game again after another move, this time to Grande Cache, Alberta, and, upon her return to Saskatchewan in 1999, decided she wanted to play competitively.
Nancy, now 44, was eventually drawn to a more unconventional brand of her sport.
“I had been trying to curl competitively with ladies’ teams since 1999, but in 2013 but we kind of heard about this mixed doubles, so one of the guys at the rink and I started practicing it,” she explained. “We went to provincials and lost the final, but we still got a spot to nationals. We went to nationals, did quite well, had a good weekend, and lost the final to go to worlds.”
Mixed doubles is different from traditional curling in a number of ways, not the least of which is the “mixed” part. It’s also a lot faster and more intense. Because there are fewer ends and less time allotted for thinking, games typically last an hour and 15 minutes rather than two and a half hours.
And whereas the traditional version of the game starts with a blank sheet of ice, mixed doubles features pre-placed rocks. Players also can’t knock anything out until the fourth rock is thrown, which means by the time they get to that point, the ice is already crowded.
“I think what, really, what my love for this particular part of the sport is the number of rocks in play,” Nancy said. “From the very first end, you feel like you could get four or give up four, and your heart’s just beating away because you have to make every shot or you’re in trouble.
“It forces you to play a lot of angles, a lot of soft shots, and it really forces you to be cognizant of leaving the correct angles.”
Nancy eventually switched partners to Catlin Schneider. The pair found success, winning a couple of events and accumulating enough points in competitions to merit a spot at the Olympic trials in Portage La Prairie, M.B., in early January.
She and Schneider went 5-3 during the round robin to finish fourth in their pool, which put them into a tiebreaker to make the playoff round. They lost that contest, ending their run.
“It was a good week, but just one game shorter than we would have liked to have been,” she said. “But it was very exciting just to get the opportunity. Playing in all the events that we’ve played in and getting to play against some of the best curlers in Canada and the world has been amazing.”
For now, it’s back to work at CSC as she prepares for the next curling adventure.
Work at the office is a team effort, too. The Offender Management System is a computerized case file management system used by CSC, the Parole Board of Canada and other criminal justice partners to manage information about federal offenders throughout their sentences. There are a lot of moving parts.
Nancy is the Regional Manager for OMS in the Prairie Region, which means she supports the OMS specialists who in turn support the users.
Nancy continues to balance that with all the physical and mental work required to stay competitive in her sport at a national level. In addition to regular gym time, she tries to get to the rink every day. If she goes more than one day away, she starts to feel antsy.
“My husband (Chad Martin, who also works at CSC) has been amazing – it leaves him at home a lot to organize things and, yeah, without the support of your family and friends and colleagues, it’s not possible,” Nancy said. “It’s a big dedication and a lot of time.”
Congratulations to Nancy on her run at the Olympic trials and best of luck in the future!