SARNIA, ONT. — Stephanie LeDrew is still trying to wrap her head around one one of the proudest moments of her life.
LeDrew, a native of Corner Brook, is a national curling champion after she played the role of alternate on Ontario’s Rachel Homan rink that captured top honours at the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kingston, Ont. over the weekend.
Homan’s rink capped off an amazing run with a 9-6 victory over Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones in the championship final. The 23-year-old Homan displayed steely determination all week in her quest for the crown. She dropped just a a single game in the round robin — to Jones — and beat her twice in a row in the playoffs.
“It’s pretty surreal at the moment. Still sinking in,” LeDrew said Thursday afternoon. “When you are a female curler in Canada that’s your childhood dream come true so I’m pretty much over the moon.”
LeDrew was playing her in second Scotties Tournament of Hearts, having representing her home province of Newfoundland and Labrador back in 2010. But, she admits it was a whole different atmosphere being on a team led by a skip with the potential of going all the way this year.
During the championship final, she kept her emotions in check pretty good as her teammates held a comfortable five-point lead after eight ends. She knew before the tournament that she could have a chance at winning the Scotties with her new teammates and it started to become more of a reality as she watched the girls steamroll through the tournament.
She admits she was shaking during the last two ends, which had to be played out, but she was glad she had a few ends to prepare with her team holding a big lead.
It was an emotional moment for all hands when Homan ran Jones out of rocks in the 10th end to seal the deal.
“The tears started flowing for everybody I think,” she said. “It’s hard to describe to be honest. It’s hard to put it into words.”
LeDrew grew up in a curling family with her dad, the late John LeDrew, and her mom, Diane Roberts of St. John’s, being among some of the top competitive curlers in their heyday. She remembers watching her parents curl at the Rec Plex in Corner Brook where the bartender would act as her babysitter on many occasions before she finally decided to give the sport a whirl.
Thoughts of her dad raced through her head a thousand times throughout the week.
“I wish he was around to see it,” she said. “Dad was always very supportive and he was such a natural athlete himself that I’m sure I can attribute some of my athletic talent back to him because anything he tried to do he did it well.”
She is grateful for the support of her parents and family throughout her curling career and insists that she would never have become a strong curler if it wasn’t for the grooming she received in her home province. She moved to Sarnia for work two years ago and is now employed at MedLaser Advanced Rehabiliation and Healing in Point Edward, but she had to find a new elite squad after spending years with the same team on the Rock.
She caught on with a squad, but had a disappointing season by her standards, leading her to team up with Nova Scotia’s Jill Mouzar, who was curling out of the Donalda Club in Toronto.
Mouzar’s rink finished with a 3-6 rink at the Ontario Scotties tournament and a few days later LeDrew was recruited by Homan to fill the role of alternate.
It’s an invitation she never hesitated to accept and now she has a gold medal and a Scotties diamond ring to show for her efforts.
A rule for the Scotties tournament states that the fifth on teams in the medal round have to play at least two ends in two separate games throughout the week to qualify for all the silverware handed out to the champions.
Fortunately, LeDrew was thrust into action for three of the games, knowing full well that her role was to fill in for her teammates in case of an injury or to give the front end a breather from sweeping their butts off all week.
“They were nice enough to give me a bit of icetime,” she said. “If I didn’t play at all I wouldn’t get the medal or the ring and all that stuff. So, they made a point of getting my time in early for that purpose.”
She is waiting with anticipation for a chance to wear Team Canada’s colours when the Rachel Homan rink throws stones at the world women’s curling championship next month in Riga, Latvia.