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Tipple brothers trying their best to emulate famous curling uncle

Spencer (left) and Parker Tipple get some shots in during warmups for the second day of curling competition at the Corner Brook Curling Club as a part of the 2018 NL Winter Games.
Spencer (left) and Parker Tipple pose during warmups for the second day of curling competition at the Corner Brook Curling Club as a part of the 2018 NL Winter Games. - Nicholas Mercer

There was no way Parker and Spencer Tipple were going to miss the final of the 2018 Brier final between Brad Gushue and Brendan Bottcher.

The pair, armed with their iPads, were able to watch Newfoundland’s Gushue — as Team Canada — pick up his second straight Brier championship as the top senior men’s curling rink in the country from the athletes' village of the 2018 NL Winter Games in Deer Lake.

Parker, the skip, and Spencer, the lead, are representing Mount Pearl South in the Games along with Alexander Hanrahan and Noah Hawkins.

In a classroom at Elwood High School with the curling team from St. John’s North, they watched from their bunks with the blankets pulled over their heads.

Parker, the eldest at 12, managed to catch the whole thing, but 11-year-old Spencer fell asleep before Gushue’s draw to the button in the 10th end to seal the victory.

Since the beginning of the Brier, they’ve been glued to whatever screen they could find in order to watch Gushue, Mark Nicholl, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker make their run to the title.

And, for good reason.

Their mother, Natasha, is Gushue’s sister, which makes the decorated athlete their uncle.

“We were really big hockey fans,” said Parker. “We never really watched curling and we weren’t really into curling. “With (Brad) winning the Brier, it gave us a little bit of confidence and we wanted to try it.”

Prior to moving to Mount Pearl two years ago, the Tipples had very little experience with curling.

They played hockey and were members of the Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association, but not curlers.

The curling club in Harbour Grace is now a furniture store, having been closed for more than a decade and far cry from having bred former Gushue Olympic teammate Jamie Korab.

Being from the Conception Bay North region, I can attest to the fact that curling really only crosses people’s minds during the Brier and the Olympics.

Other than that, there isn’t talk about the sport. There was talk of it being offered in the new rink in Harbour Grace when it was being built, but that quickly fizzled out as the project neared completion.

The closest clubs are small outfits that offered scant pieces of ice time on hockey ice in Whitbourne and Placentia.

Despite a lack of access, the boys still tried the sport whenever they spent time in St. John’s with their uncle.

“He took us down on the ice a few times,” said Spencer.

When they made the move to the city, it was only natural for them to throw themselves into the game full time.

When they’re not playing hockey with the Mount Pearl Blades they’re probably at the RE/Max Centre in St. John’s honing their craft.

“They’re watching curling either on television or on their iPads whenever they get a chance,” said their dad Sean moments after his sons started their game against St. John’s North. Their grandfather, Dave Tipple is from Corner Brook and their great uncle Ken still lives in the area.

Spending a couple of minutes watching the pair, it's easy to see they've received some solid advice from their famous uncle.

Whenever they get the chance, they’re asking Gushue for advice on shots and what approach he’d take in certain situations.

Spencer is quick to bellow instructions after throwing a rock, while Parker displays some of the same mannerisms as his uncle.

Newfoundland curling has never been hotter. Gushue’s latest Brier win guarantees another year with two teams from this province competing for the coveted trophy.

Some of the athletes who will suit up at the Tankard in 2019 will have gotten their start at the NL Winter Games.

From there, they could win junior provincial titles or go on to the Canada Games. There is no limit to what could happen really.

To me, that is what makes the Games such an intriguing part of the sporting landscape in this province.

Athletes come, represent their areas and compete for medals. They get a taste of what they can do and where they can go in their selected sports.

It’s hard not to get drawn into their struggles and their victories.

At 11 and 12, there is a chance the Tipples will be here again in four years.

For now, they’re concentrated on getting better and maybe picking up a medal.

“We’ve been working so hard to win games and everything,” said Spencer on competing in Corner Brook. “Being here has been a really good experience.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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