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Although she was often hailed as the 'Queen of Curling,' Sandra Schmirler became one of the most relatable sports heroes in Canadian history. Coming from the small town of Biggar, Saskatchewan, Sandra maintained a refreshing normality and humble, down-to-earth attitude throughout her competitive career that made people feel they personally knew her, no matter what incredible feat she had just accomplished on the ice.

A forceful and dedicated skip, Sandra Schmirler's athletic skill was matched by her patience and grit, and she constantly turned losses suffered into lessons learned. Between 1991 and 1997 she led her longtime teammates Jan Betker, Joan McCusker and Marcia Gudereit to three Canadian championship titles and three world championship titles. Although their competitive record was already without precedent, the Schmirler rink's crowning achievement came in 1998 when they won the first gold medal ever awarded to women in curling as a full Olympic sport.

Raising the bar for women's curling in Canada, the Schmirler rink proved female competitors with families and careers could also become international champions.. United by close bonds of friendship and a shared dedication to the sport they loved, all four teammates were married with children and jobs, and they often turned to each other for encouragement and support whenever balancing curling and their personal lives proved difficult.

Sandra Schmirler's story took a tragic turn when she was diagnosed with cancer only a year and a half after her groundbreaking Olympic victory. After a courageous battle, Sandra passed away in 2000 at the age of 36. Across the nation and especially in her home province of Saskatchewan, flags flew at half mast, and she became the first Canadian athlete whose funeral was broadcast on live television, making it possible for people across the country to join together in celebration of her life and achievements. It was truly remarkable that a curler managed to touch so many Canadians in such a profoundly personal and emotional way. After her passing, Sandra Schmirler was remembered not only as the queen of her sport, but also as the 'queen of hearts' who helped bring women to the forefront of Canada's proud curling heritage.

photograph of Sandra Schmirler holding rock and broom
Sandra Schmirler was known for her intensity on the ice and as a strong shot maker. At the 1997 Olympic trials she made one of her most famous shots known for its difficulty, an in-off for three, to win the Trials and a berth to the 1998 Olympics Winter Games. She was a fierce competitor who was respected for her play, character and achievements. The award for the MVP in the playoffs at the Scotties was renamed the Sandra Schmirler Award in 2001.
Collection: CP PHOT0/COC

photograph of Sandra Schmirler rink with gold medals
The Schmirler rink formed in 1990 with Sandra Schmirler as skip, Jan Betker as third, Joan McCusker as second and Marcia Gudereit as lead. Together they won three Canadian Women's Championships and three World Championships. The team of four from Saskatchewan, with their spare Atina Ford, won the first gold medal in women's curling at an Olympic Winter Games in 1998. Their skill at their game and their team play helped raise the level of women's curling both nationally and internationally.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

statue of Sandra Schmirler throwing curling stone
Sandra Schmirler, whose nickname was 'Schmirler the Curler', was one of the best curlers in the world. As skip she decided on the game strategy and called the shots. She was also regarded as one of the top ambassadors for her sport with her engaging personality and her zest for life. Her sense of community lives on in the Sandra Schmirler Foundation which raises funds for neonatal care centres across Canada.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

curling jacket with GUDEREIT on back
Each member of the Schmirler team was fitted to their position and the team ran like clockwork. Marcia Gudereit played lead and she was known for her ability to throw guard rocks. Each person placed equal importance on friends and family as they did to their game. In 1998 they were named Team of the Year by the Canadian Press.
Collection: Private Collection: Marcia Gudereit

curling sweater with MCCUSKER on back
Joan McCusker played second on the Schmirler team and played in sync with the lead in sweeping. The team members were best friends on and off the ice. They combined their individual skills, goals and personalities to become one of the best curling teams Canada has produced. They often cited this close friendship as one of the reasons for their success.
Collection: Private Collection: Joan McCusker

Photograph of women's curling team with Macdonald's Lassies trophy
Women's curling tournaments were being held as early as 1913. In 1961 the first Canadian Women's Curling Championship was held. The Macdonald Tobacco Company took on the sponsorship of the championship from 1971 to 1979 and the tournament was called the Macdonald's Lassies. The 1977 winning team from Alberta is shown here with David Stewart of the Macdonald Company.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Linda Moore team celebrating victory
Linda Moore's rink comprised of Lindsay Sparkes, Debbie Jones, Penny Ryan and Patti Vande won the gold medal in the demonstration sport of curling at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. She was also the Canadian and World Champion in 1985. Moore followed her athletic career with one in sports broadcasting as an analyst in curling. She was known for understanding the mental side of the game, "the game within the game" and describing it clearly to her audiences.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of Colleen Jones team with Scotties trophy
Colleen Jones has a record that most envy - six Canadian Curling Championships from 1982 to 2004, including four in a row, and two World Championships. Known for her intensity on the ice, for her "killer instinct", she was the first to bring a sport psychologist onto her team to help her with her control and staying positive on the ice. Her sense of team leadership and collaboration is shown in the open and honest relationship among her fellow team members.
Collection: Warren Hansen

gold medal for demonstration sports 1988
Three demonstration sports of curling, freestyle skiing and short track speed skating were held at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. This gold medal design shows the unique design that shows the three sports in action. These sports have since become full medal sports and curling is one of the most highly contested competitions.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Scotties trophy with four plinths, two curling rocks, and heart shaped engraved silver plaques.
The Women's Canadian Championships known as the Scott Tournament of Hearts, now the Scotties Tournament of Hearts has been sponsored by Kruger Products since 1982. Scott Paper revolutionized women's curling by promoting and marketing it. The tournament has become one of the most popular competitions in Canada. The winner of the Scotties becomes Team Canada and goes on to play at the World Championships. Team Canada also gets a bye into the following year's tournament.
Collection: Curling Canada

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