A Yukon curler will be competing in the first winter sports staged by the Youth Olympic Games this January.
Thomas Scoffin will be part of the Canadian Curling Association team attending the event in Innsbruck, Austria.
“I was just speechless; I was so happy, I didn’t know what to say,” said Scoffin. “This weekend was just unbelievable. We packed so much into it, learned so much and met a lot of people. We got all this support from all these high-end athletes – it was pretty unbelievable.”
Not only will Scoffin be without either of his two regular rinks, getting teamed up with other curlers from throughout Canada, he will be on a mixed team.
“The International Olympic Committee chose to make this particular event a mixed event,” said Wade Scoffin, coach, father and president of the Yukon Curling Association. “From each of the 16 qualifying countries there will be two girls and two boys with a coach.”
Also on the team is BC’s Corryn Brown, the girls’ gold medal skip at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax. At just 15, Brown was also the runner-up at the BC junior championships, a 20-and-under tournament, last season.
Throwing lead for the team is Emily Gray of PEI, who two years ago was her province’s under-15 champion.
“We don’t know her as well, being from the other side of the country, but she’s a tremendous lead,” said Wade. “She’s a terrific sweeper and has a really positive attitude.”
The other male on the team is Derek Oryniak of Manitoba, who crossed paths with Scoffin at the Canada Games in Halifax six weeks ago. In the match, which was the opener for both teams, Scoffin took a 6-3 win, his team’s only win of the Games, before finishing in 12th. Oryniak and his Manitoba team, for which he threw second, went on to take the bronze.
“We didn’t know each other very well – but it was cool to meet everybody,” said Scoffin. “Now we’re best friends, so it’s pretty cool.”
Though newly formed, the rink is off to a good start. Scoffin and his teammates – Team Canada, in other words – played a six-end exhibition match in Regina at the world championships against the Canada Games girls’ team from Saskatchewan, winning 6-1. (Canada’s Jeff Stoughton won the gold at the world championships on Sunday.)
“We gelled right away, the selection was just perfect,” said Scoffin. “The four of us came together right away and it was just unreal to be there.”
Scoffin’s inclusion on Team Canada is just the latest on a long list of accomplishments.
The 16-year-old has competed in every Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships since 2007, coming back with a 5-7 record – his rink’s best record at the nationals – in 2010. In fact he is the youngest male curler to skip for a team at the junior nationals, captaining a team at just 12.
He has also curled at two Canada Games and three Arctic Winter Games, winning two silvers and a gold at the Arctic Games.
If that’s not enough, the selection process also took into account Scoffin’s other interests outside of curling, the fact that he’s on the honour role at Porter Creek Secondary School, letters of reference and even an essay he wrote on encouraging Canadian youth to participate in sport
“That was way back in November,” said Scoffin. “I had quite a few ideas – I don’t have them off the top of my head – and I thought they were good suggestions.”
At the time being, positions have not been firmed up, but it is looking like Scoffin will be Team Canada’s skip in Innsbruck.
“Right now, that’s the plan, but as with any sport or any team, they may choose to change things up,” said Wade. “With this last weekend, through preparing and practicing, that’s the position they are aiming Thomas to be in.”
“I just want to thank everyone for their support. So many people have helped me get here – they know who they are, I guess. I can’t do this on my own,” said Scoffin, not forgetting his two regular rinks. “I owe so much to those guys, they helped me a lot. I learned so much with them.”
Last summer Pelly Crossing’s Danielle Marcotte took part in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore as Canada’s only pistol shooter. Marcotte, who won two of Yukon’s three gold medals at the Canada Games in Halifax, finished in fourth.
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