/HHSS curling champ aims for Beijing
Former HHSS student Connor Duhaime is in Liverpool, Nova Scotia this week for the 2021 Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials. His parents, Russ and Joan Duhaime, will be cheering him on. /Photo submitted

HHSS curling champ aims for Beijing

By Nick Bernard

Connor Duhaime is a lifelong curler with Olympic ambitions, and a hometown connection to the Haliburton Highlands. He takes his first steps toward the international stage this week at the 2021 Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. 

Following Duhaime to Nova Scotia are his parents, Joan and Russ. They’re excited to see their son make this play toward the Olympics. They say regardless of the outcome, it’s being able to say he played well that makes the effort worth it.

“I just want them to have a really positive experience,” Joan says, “And I want them to play to their best potential.”

Curling, Joan points out, is a very mental game that requires a high amount of focus, drive, and effort in order to reach the level Connor plays at now. 

“It’s such a huge commitment,” Joan says, “You know, the every-other-weekend-away, kind of thing.” 

For Connor himself, that has meant a career that spans the majority of his life so far. In high school, Connor attended Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, where he won athlete of the year for participating in an array of sports. But it was the area’s junior curling program that brought Connor to competitive curling.

“We have an awesome junior program in both Haliburton and Minden that bring the kids up from elementary school,” Joan explains. Connor’s brother Owen also played competitive curling. “They liked the more individual nature of the smaller teams.” 

He and his team placed highly in the provincial standings, eventually leading to a Gore Mutual Provincial Championship. The team’s roster included Connor – then in Grade 12, his brother Owen – then in Grade 9, Curtis Nichol, and Jessie Walker.

Support from his community has played an enormous part in his early career. Because HHSS is the only high school in the area, Connor and his team had to practice alongside the Haliburton men’s curling league. An experience, Joan says, that was very rewarding for the team.

“The men were always super,” she says, “They passed the hat around and bought them new jackets, and they’d always send them off to provincials with money to help buy them breakfast. It was very, very supportive.”

Following his high school championship, Connor moved on to study at Ontario Tech University. Here, he was instrumental in starting the university’s curling team. Knowing a number of fellow students who played for other junior level teams, Connor made a presentation to the athletic committee. In accomplishing this through his own initiative and leadership, Connor was able to continue his career at the university level. 

Now, he has his sights set on the Olympics as part of Team Ferris. Over the past four years, the team has participated in the World Curling Tour, which has allowed them to be able to take part in this week’s pre-trials. 

Skip Pat Ferris, Third Ian Dickie, Second Connor Duhaime and Lead Zack Shurtleff make up Team Ferris. Duhaime is a former HHSS student from Gelert./Photo submitted

“It’s part of a four-year cycle,” Connor’s dad Russ explains, “[You have to] work together as a team over those four years … And they have accumulated enough points to compete at that level.”

Connor, 31, plays Second Position on Team Ferris. They will be joining thirteen other teams in both men’s and women’s categories. The top two teams from each category will move on to the Curling Trials, held in November. After that, a path to Beijing 2022.

Connor’s parents are both recreational curlers. Connor’s wife Chantal also plays competitively, having participated in the same level of Olympic pre-trials during the last Olympic cycle.

As for whether Connor’s two sons will take up rock throwing as a hobby, Joan is optimistic.

“They’re pretty small now,” she concedes with a laugh. 

The 2021 Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials take place from October 25th to the 31st.