Curling: Best friends forever

Brown rink has definite family feeling as it pursues excellence

Mark Hunter / Kamloops Daily News
February 27, 2013 01:00 AM

Corryn Brown (left), Erin Pincott, Samantha Fisher and Sydney Fraser pose for the "classic picture" after winning the Canadian junior women's curling championship in Fort McMurray, Alta.

For all Corryn Brown, Erin Pincott, Samantha Fisher and Sydney Fraser have accomplished in their short curling careers, the first goal they set will forever go unfulfilled.

"When I was little, I didn't realize there was a Brier AND a Scotties," Brown says. "I knew that my dad had gone to the Brier, and me and Erin used to say, 'We're going to be the first girls at the Brier!' "

That just isn't going to happen, but the Brown rink has accomplished every other goal it has set.

The quartet now has its eyes on a world junior crown - the Kamloops curlers will represent Canada at the world championships in Sochi, Russia, from Thursday through March 10. The Brown crew earned its berth at worlds by winning the Canadian junior championship in Fort McMurray on Feb. 10.

Winning junior nationals wasn't an accident for the four best friends, nor has any of their success been the result of anything other than hard work and undeniable chemistry. All 17 years of age, Brown, Pincott, Fisher and Fraser have won pretty much every championship they've contested, and built a seemingly unbreakable bond in the process.

"We're closer than friends," Pincott says. "We're like sisters."

* * *

The story of how these four girls came to form Canada's best junior women's rink officially started in 2006, when they played their first game together, but it actually began years before then.

Each of the girls comes from a curling family, with each boasting a parent or grandparent who won a provincial championship.

For Brown, the rink's skip, it was her father Ken, now the team's coach. Ken Brown played second on Barry McPhee's 1996 and 1997 provincial men's championship rinks.

Pincott, who plays third, is the granddaughter of Grant Young, who went to the Brier with as McPhee's lead in 1981, and again in 1986 as the fifth/coach.

"He got my parents to sign me up," Pincott says. "I think, at the start, I liked it because I was with Corryn and Sydney and we were all friends."

Fisher's father, Brian, who now coaches alongside Ken Brown, played lead on Jim Cotter's 1990 B.C. junior men's champion.

"Since I was little, I came down and watched my dad play," Samantha says. "When I was seven, I was like, 'Can I play?' "

And Fraser, the Brown rink's lead, got to watch her grandmother, Joyce Fraser, play lead on Eve Skakun's 2000 B.C. masters women's championship rink.

Without those champions, none of these girls would likely have ever set foot in a curling rink.

* * *

Corryn Brown and Sydney Fraser started curling when they were four, playing on a rink together along with their sisters in children's leagues. When Brown and Fraser were seven, their sisters moved up and they found Pincott.

"I've known Sydney since kindergarten," Pincott says. "My grandpa and Ken have been friends since before we were born, so (Corryn and I) have known each other since birth."

They had a mixed team at the start - Anthony Arduini, a neighbour of Brown's, was the fourth member.

"But when we found out we were having a little bit of success, we figured we can't have a boy on our team,"

Brown offers, with a laugh. "But my dad has known Brian for a long time, and he knew (Fisher) had a daughter around our age. That's how Sam came on board, when we were 11.

"The rest is history."

* * *

"It became serious when we were about 12," Fisher says.

At that time, in January 2008, the Brown rink went to zone juvenile playdowns and ended up making it to a final, only to lose to Kelsey Schwindt, who won the right to represent the Thompson Okanagan at the B.C. Winter Games in Cranbrook.

And although it was a loss - one of few, as it turned out - it made the girls realize that they had a chance to do something in the sport.

"Every since we've become good, I've been like, 'Yeah, I want to keep doing this,' " Fraser says. "Before that, it was little league and not that interesting."

Still, the girls were only 12 years old at the time, and it took some time for them to really become competitive.

Although the rink had been a blip on the radar in local circles, it crashed through the screen in 2010, when it came home from the B.C. Winter Games in Terrace with a gold medal. It was the girls' first provincial title, and the quartet of 14-year-olds did it in an under-16 competition.

That championship, although seemingly minor in wake of everything Brown and Co. have accomplished since, got the ball rolling.

"We've all grown up together, we've matured together," Fraser offers.

The following season, 2010-11, was incredible.

It started with the rink playing its way into the Canada Winter Games at a qualifier in Vernon. Then, at the provincial junior championship in North Vancouver in the final week of 2010, the 15-year-olds finished second, losing the final 6-3 to a rink skipped by Victoria's Dailene Sivertson, who was 20 at the time.

At the Canada Winter Games in Halifax in February 2011, the Brown rink won its first national championship, beating Alberta 3-1 in the final. It was the girls' only crack at the Canada Winter Games, and it meant a lot.

"We have only one chance in our lifetime to go for this," Brown said at the time.

For good measure, the Kamloops girls rolled through the provincial juvenile championship for the second straight year, and made it a three-peat at the B.C. Winter Games in Vernon in 2012. (In even years, the provincial juvenile championship is played as part of the B.C. Winter Games).

Before the 2012 B.C. Winter Games, Brown helped Team Canada win a bronze medal at the Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, curling with three others from across Canada. When she came back, Brown and her regular teammates went to the Optimist International event in Toronto - representing B.C. in the under-18 event - and captured gold.

"We've accomplished everything we've wanted, to this day," Brown says.

* * *

If given the option, none of the girls would ever trade any of their current rinkmates for anyone else in the curling world.

Replace Brown with Jennifer Jones? No way.

Fisher for Johnny Morris? Not a chance.

Pincott for Kelly Scott? Get out of town.

"We're like family," Fraser says. "We're always going toward the same goal."

That is precisely what has made the Brown rink so successful.

There isn't a bad apple in the bunch, and the girls, who say they are sisters in every way but name, want to spend time together. They want to be around curling rinks together - practising, playing. They want to travel together to various championships, whether they're in Fort McMurray, Russia or Vernon.

A great many friendships fade away over time. Not this one.

"Over the years, we've gotten more comfortable with each other," Pincott says, "and every year, we get closer."

It's not always sunshine and lollipops. Get any four people - no matter how friendly they are with each other - together for long stretches of time, and patience can be tested.

"We definitely know how to get on each other's nerves, and we know when to stick up for one another," Brown says. "We're not a team; we're a family."

* * *

The short-term goal, obviously, is to win a world junior title.

Brown will open the championships with a Thursday game against Denmark, and will play eight other games in a round-robin that will end March 7. The playoffs will run March 8-10.

The long-term goal? Well, that's a little hazier.

"We have to keep growing and pushing each other," Brown says.

Each of the girls is set to graduate in June - Fisher from Valleyview secondary, and Brown, Fraser and Pincott from South Kamloops - meaning they are free to leave town to go to university.

Brown says they will stay together through next season, and decide after.

"I know we're going to stay together for as long as we can," Fraser says.

"We still have a few years left in junior," Brown adds. "We have to be looking at women's play, and we have to decide on where we want to go after junior."

Realistically, this is a rink that could be winning provincial women's titles in a few years.

It's not unheard of - Ottawa's Rachel Homan, who won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian women's championship in Kingston, Ont., on Sunday, was the 2010 Canadian junior women's champion.

"I know we can get to where she is, but we just have to keep working at it," Fraser says. "I'm sure we can get there."

"It's wide open right now," Fisher adds.

Whatever the case, Brown, Pincott, Fraser and Fisher have captured the hearts of curling fans in Kamloops.

They've done everything right, from showing class and sportsmanship on the ice, to being ambassadors for Kamloops and B.C., off it.

The four best friends have won everything imaginable, and have the memories to show for it. And yet they remain humble.

"I've always wanted to be successful in curling," Brown says. "This year, I definitely accomplished one of my big goals.

"There's that classic picture at the junior Canadians, where the four winning girls pose beside the trophy. . . .

I've always dreamt about being in that picture.

"We have that picture now."

---

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Team Canada:Corryn Brown (skip), Erin Pincott (third), Samantha Fisher (second), Sydney Fraser (lead), Cathlia Ward (fifth), Ken Brown (coach), Brian Fisher (advisor).

Sochi, Russia:A city of around 400,000 people, near the Black Sea. Time difference means it is 12 hours ahead of Kamloops. The curling championships will be held at the Ice Cube Curling Center, which also will be home to the curling competition at the 2014 Olympics.

The fifth:Ward, who played third on New Brunswick's entry at the Canadian junior women's championship earlier this month, was added to the Brown rink as an alternate.

The blog:Ward's blog Memoirs of a Fifth has been giving updates of Team Canada in Sochi. She is doing it, in part, to receive credit for missing classes at university. The blog's address is www.cathlia.blogspot.com.

The games:Canada will play nine round-robin games, starting Thursday against Denmark. Canada also will play Scotland (Friday), Russia (Saturday), Japan (Sunday), Czech Republic (Monday), Switzerland (Tuesday), Sweden and Norway (March 7).

Watch live: According to the tournament website, the games will be streamed live. The link: http://wjcc2013.curlingevents.com/livevideo.

---

CORRYN BROWN

Position: Skip

Age: 17

School: South Kamloops

Curling experience: 13 years

Parents: Val and Ken

Siblings: One sister, Faryn

Favourite band/singer: Neil Young, any country.

Favourite TV show: New Girl, Big Brother, Bachelorette, SportsCentre

Favourite movie: She's The Man, The Blind Side.

ERIN PINCOTT

Position: Third

Age: 17

School: South Kamloops

Curling experience: 10 years

Parents: Karla and Chris

Siblings: One brother, Ethan

Favourite band/singer: Depends on the mood

Favourite TV show: New Girl

Favourite movie: She's The Man

SAMANTHA FISHER

Position: Second

Age: 17

School: Valleyview

Curling experience: 10 years

Parents: Teresa and Brian

Siblings: One sister, Cierra

Favourite band/singer: Can't decide

Favourite TV show: Nashville

Favourite movie: The Notebook

SYDNEY FRASER

Position: Lead

Age: 17

School: South Kamloops

Curling experience: 13 years

Parents: Catherine and Richard

Siblings: One sister, Jordan

Favourite band/singer: All country music

Favourite TV show: Pretty Little Liars

Favourite movie: Easy A


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