LACOLLE - Though the Winter Olympics will soon be drawing to a close, there's one sport that keeps people coming back for more.
Melanie Defayette, director of the Town of Plattsburgh Recreation Department, has found Scotland's native sport of curling has gained more and more attention since becoming part of the Winter Olympics. So much, in fact, people of the North Country have been traveling across the border to the Lacolle Curling Club in Quebec to play on the area's only regulation curling arena.
Defayette said she knew about the sport, but first learned of the recent rise in interest in curling from Connie Harrica of Morrisonville. Harrica, herself, was introduced by a friend to the sport, which involves "sweeping" polished granite stones down a sheet of ice toward a circular target called a "house." The sport, which she and Defayette both likened to shuffleboard, was one that immediately piqued Harrica's interest.
"I watched it one day and decided I wanted to get involved," said Harrica.
Though Harrica immediately took a liking to curling and wanted to tell others like Defayette, she wasn't the only one. Jan Letourneau of Rouses Point reached Defayette at almost the same time to tell her how much fun curling can be.
"Connie was in my office talking about curling and, out of the blue, Jan calls about curling. That was a little strange," laughed Defayette. "Since we've expanded our programs at the town to involve a lot of activities, especially for seniors, I thought this is something worth looking into. It goes with what we're trying to do."
So, Defayette took a trip north to Lacolle and learned more about the sport from Lacolle Curling Club coach Perry Anderson.
The greatest thing about the sport, said Anderson, though while somewhat physically demanding depending on the position you play, is that almost anyone can do it.
"It's a sport you can start as a child and you can do even into your eighties," said Anderson, who began curling in his forties.
When he began to play competitively, he, in fact, played against a man in his early eighties. It was then Anderson learned a valuable lesson about never underestimating your opponent.
"I thought to myself that it was going to be easy ... He whooped me," Anderson said, laughing. "That's what's great about this sport. Anybody can play and anybody can win, depending on the skill they have."
"It's a lifelong sport because it reaches a span of all ages," said Letourneau. "This is my fifth year doing it and it's been exciting. I've even got my husband involved in it now. It's something we can do together."
Gilles Poupin and Michelle Gosselin, also of Rouses Point, agreed.
"I'm up here at least three times a week. This is my fifth season and this is his first," Gosselin said, pointing to Poupin. "It really gets you through the wintertime."
"I like it," said Poupin. "I met her on the golf course, and she asked me to come here and try it. It's great."
Gosselin said they both like how curling keeps them physically fit.
"At the beginning of the season, you're aching a bit, but if you do it a few times a week, you get yourself in good shape," she said. "I find it also keeps you alert because there are mathematical concepts as to where you want to place your stones to make your scorings."
Most of all, the couple said they enjoy the friendships they've made from participating in the club.
"It's a very social game," said Gosselin. "That's a very important aspect of it."
"I've found the folks I've met to be so friendly and welcoming when they see new people joining," said Harrica. "Everyone's focused on their game, but very helpful along the way. It's nice."
Defayette said she's interested in coordinating a regular trip to the Lacolle Curling Club through the recreation department.
"I'd love to take a group up if they express an interest, even if I get four or five people," she said.
Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact Defayette at 562-6860, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.