A local athlete is being recognized as one of the greats in the sport of curling. Arborg, Manitoba's own Carolyn Darbyshire is one of the five individual inductees in the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame's class of 2022.
Darbyshire was involved in curling from an extremely young age as both of her parents were curlers. Darbyshire says she thought the life her mom was able to live seemed so cool.
"My mom was always going away (for tournaments) on the weekends, and we'd ask her, 'if you win, what do you get?' It was usually prizes or money, but this one particular week, when she was leaving, she said they would win a trip to Victoria if they won it all. I was like, 'Wow, can we go with you if you win?' and she goes, 'Sure, no problem.' She never, ever thought that she would win her first provincial championship," Darbyshire explains. "So, when she came home, she was pretty excited. She told us that she won and we went, 'Yay, we're going to Victoria!' She just looked at us, and her face said, 'What did I get myself into."
Carolyn watched her mother Merline's next tournament in Victoria and notes she has been hooked on the sport from that point forward.
Not only was Merline a big influence on her daughter's career, but she also played a huge part in Carolyn's first provincial achievement. The mother and daughter duo were the skip and second for the 1985 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts Championship winning team.
The younger Darbyshire describes how important those years playing alongside her mother were for her development as a curler.
"She's always been a great curler. I will always remember her for being able to hit those tough shots. If her hands were shaking, you knew that she would make the shot," Darbyshire explains. "She was a great strategist, and she taught me a lot. Even after we stopped playing together, she would follow us around, watch our curling games, and we'd talk strategy afterward."
Ready to hit the asphalt (not ice) Sunday w Olympians Susan O'Connor & Carolyn Darbyshire! Cori is a bit busy! pic.twitter.com/zkSsE9oEx2— Cheryl Bernard (@CBernardCurler) May 29, 2014
Darbyshire joined Calgary's Cheryl Bernard in 2005 as the second of her team, which is when she began to see the most success in her career. Team Bernard won her the 2007 provincial championship with Merline Darbyshire in attendance.
"I was always trying to live up to my mom, so when I won my second provincial championship in '07, I looked at her and said 'Now I'm tied with you," says Darbyshire. "I said, 'I've won two just like you mom.' That was pretty awesome."
Carolyn has since taken the lead in provincial championships with four, the third also coming with Team Bernard in 2009. This, among a plethora of other successful outings throughout that year, qualified them for the 2009 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials.
Darbyshire and Team Bernard went 6-1 in the round-robin and won their final game 7-6 to become Team Canada's representative at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The second for that Olympic team says she knew the atmosphere was going to be something she had never experienced before but notes there was no way she could've fully prepared for what was to come.
"Before our first game, we were standing under the bleachers ready to be piped on. We couldn't see anybody, but all of a sudden, there was stomping on the aluminum bleachers. We were like, 'What the heck is going on?" Darbyshire continues. "Curling is never loud, but I did warn the girls, saying that we had to prepare for screaming and yelling. They all looked at me like, 'Are you crazy? We play curling, and nobody yells or screams.' I told them these are not regular Canadian fans, this is the Olympics."
Darbyshire says she had watched the Canadian Women's Hockey team win a game by more than ten goals, and notes the fans never stopped roaring. This made her want to prepare for all possibilities from the crowd, but she adds it was still a shock to hear that amount of noise every time she stepped onto the ice.
"I know when we played Denmark, they couldn't even hear themselves talk to each other on their last shot in the tenth end. She couldn't even tell her teammates what was happening because the screaming and yelling was so loud," Darbyshire explains. "When Cori (Bartel) and I were sweeping a shot in an extra end against Germany, she couldn't even hear me when I was going, 'Woah' to get her to stop sweeping. I had to tap her on the shoulder so we wouldn't oversweep a shot."
The second says what was important for them during those Olympic Games was to accept whatever was coming at them, whether it be on the ice, in the stands, or behind the scenes. Darbyshire believes this mentality played a big role in Team Bernard being able to bring home a Silver Medal for Canada. She says having her home country behind them for the ride made things even more special.
While she had the entire country behind her in spirit, her number one influence was there in-person. Carolyn shared her biggest achievement with her mother present, which she says was a special moment.
Team Bernard had never taken part in a world championship to that point, let alone the Olympic Games. Darbyshire notes they just had one goal small goal in mind initially, and they just kept rolling.
"We were hoping to get into the playoffs," says Darbyshire. "When we got ourselves in that position, we said, 'Let's just keep going and do our best.' You had to just accept what was out there. Pressure is a privilege, and we had to take the good with the bad and go from there."
During this period of her curling career, Darbyshire had more to focus on than just curling. She managed to juggle running a family business with her husband and raising two kids, one of which was in cancer remission, all while being at the top of her game.
"It was a journey. My husband and I talk about it now, we have no idea how we did it. Raising two kids, one in remission with cancer, and the other going to school, and she was her own force to be reckoned with," Darbyshire continues. "There was one year, right before the Olympic Trials, we were gone for ten weeks out of 13. It was hard, fun, but I worked hard, and we worked hard at everything we've done."
Darbyshire is still involved in the sport of curling as she has been coaching junior teams in Canada for the past two years and still plans to continue curling competitively. She says it is truly an honour to be inducted into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.
The 2022 Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on May 14.