By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With the Alberta Scotties coming to a close on January 22, a dark horse emerged victorious with team Skrlik. Two prominent members of the team, Kayla Skrlik and Ashton Skrlik, have local roots tying them back to Taber as they are granddaughters of two local residents, Eve and Mas Nishima. After this victory, the Nishimas shared their excitement for their granddaughters winning the bonspiel, and moving on to national level competition.
“Well, they won eight straight (games) and from what I understand they didn’t have any losses,” said Mas. “They came out number one. That was great for them. I think they were kind of the dark horse that came through. I was surprised like anyone else We sure didn’t expect them to come through the way that they did, but that was a big surprise, and that was a good surprise too.”
Following this initial exuberance, Mas responded if he expected his granddaughters to win the provincial Scotties.
“No, we didn’t expect them to do as well — they’ve won a few bonspiels over the years they’ve curled, and they’ve curled since they were young kids because their dad got them involved in curling,” said Mas. “They curled since they were just little kids, and they like the sport so they kept going. They didn’t win anything big until they moved to Calgary and started curling with the big leagues, where they did very well.”
Eve then shared her viewpoint on the overall victory.
“Well, I think they did very, very well. They’ve practiced a lot, and they put a lot of effort into it,” said Eve. “This was something they’ve really worked for, and it’s always a happy surprise. You hope that they will do well, and they did exceptionally well in that bonspiel. It doesn’t always happen but we always look forward to their games, and some are good and some are not so good. This time it was good and I hope that they can perform well when they go to the Canadian (bonspiel). They don’t have the experience of a lot of the good teams in there so I just think it is a happy surprise they are there, and we wish they curl as well as they did when they were in Alberta.”
Following this, Mas took a moment to comment about all of the great coaching that his granddaughters received over the years.
“Over the years they’ve always had good coaches that help them, and I think winning this last bonspiel had a lot to do with good coaches,” said Mas. “I think it was a big plus for that team because they had good coaches over the years and I curled 60 years I could never be a coach that the girls had. I can’t sacrifice the time and the money that these people donated to the girls. It wasn’t just themselves, but I think it was the coaching that helped them a lot.”
Eve commented that their granddaughters still have a tremendous challenge in front of them.
“They are quite dedicated to their game. They love curling, they knew they had to practice really, really hard for that provincial (bonspiel), but I don’t think they take it for granted that the Scotties is going to be easy or anything like that,” said Eve. “I think that they are aware of where they are in this whole process that they are in. We’re glad that they are proud that they have a chance to go to nationals.”
Kayla Skrlik was also able to provide her point of view on the victory at the recent provincial tournament.
“It was very exciting,” said Skrlik. “It was amazing. Honestly, it’s been a dream of mine since I started curling so it was the best feeling in the world. I started curling when I was eight and I’m 25 now so about 17 years. I was born and raised in the Peace Country actually. I started curling in Nampa, Alberta, so it’s right by Peace River and Falher. I started curling there with my dad, my sister, and my cousin.”
Following this initial introduction of how they started in the sport, Skrlik proceeded to discuss how their love for curling continues to drive them to achieve greater things.
“Honestly, I never really thought about anything else. I’m very competitive and my sister is very competitive. We’re around the same age, so it’s very easy for us to stay on the same team together which was motivating enough. It was a lot of family time. My dad coached for a little while before we grew up and I had to find a more professional coach. It was always a very large family sport for me — my grandparents curl, my mom used to curl, a bunch of people on both sides curled. I really just enjoyed it…every day. I thought why not try my luck and if I enjoy doing it every day, I might as well get competitive with it.”
From here Skrlik also provided the next steps for them and their team.
“We’ll have to go to the Scotties that’s in the middle of February,” said Skrlik. “We will be going to Kamloops to compete against the best in Canada. In the meantime, we are just prepping, a lot of sports psychology just to make sure that we are ready and prepared. It’s a long event, so we’re also making sure we are in tip-top shape getting our physio in check, chiropractors, all that fun stuff. Then we’re also in points race, so we just clinched a top 10 spot in Canada so we’re just looking to collect more points as the season goes on together as a team.”
To end things off Skrlik took a moment to thank all of the people who helped them reach this point over the years.
“We have been getting it off the porch and had a ton of encouragement from all of our family and friends, as well as other sponsors. A shout out to them for believing in us all these years, it’s amazing.”