Top Canadian curlers Brad Jacobs and Rick Lang are heading to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in February.
And they credit their fitness-minded families, who encouraged their early days in sports, for much of their success.
“Healthy, active living is something my parents really believe in and practice, and I’m glad for that,” says Jacobs, chatting after a pre-Olympic training session in Calgary.
“I pretty much did every sport as a kid, in school and outside of school: hockey, baseball, T-ball, gymnastics, curling, golf. I tried it all.”
With every sport, every activity, Jacobs, now 28, accomplished much more than just getting in shape. He developed fundamental movement skills such as throwing, running, balance, and hand-eye coordination.
Now the skip (essentially the captain) of the Canadian Olympic Men’s Curling Team, Jacobs is responsible for team strategy and direction. And he still draws on lessons he learned as a youth playing sports, lessons such as the importance of friendship, cooperation, and teamwork.
“As a kid, being active was good for me socially,” says Jacobs, who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “I made friends outside school, and I had a lot of fun.”
Like Jacobs, Lang, the national coach of the men’s Olympic curling team, also played a variety of sports as a child, and each gave him new skills and confidence, he says. The youngest of four kids, he enjoyed track and field, especially running, and he loved to play pond hockey in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont., with his buddies, even though he wasn’t always the best player.
“I was small for my age, and hockey is not the sport to get into when you’re small,” he recalls with a laugh. “I couldn’t do much in basketball or volleyball either. I even took up wrestling for a while, but that didn’t last long either.”
He was good at bowling, though. Excellent, in fact. He was strong for his size, and he had great hand-eye coordination.
But then Lang was introduced to curling. He was 13-years-old and in Grade 9. No one in his family had ever curled, but his connection with the sport was instantaneous. His team played — and won — their first 20 games. He never looked back, eventually becoming Canadian Champion five times and World Champion twice.
“I developed an early passion for it — the thrill of the competition — and almost 46 years later, I am still here,” he says.
“I loved practicing. It was never work for me. I just knew I wanted to do it.”
As for Jacobs, he admits he doesn’t get much of a chance to play other sports these days, but that’s okay, he says. He has a goal and he’s sticking to it. “I still like to play a bit of golf in the summer,” he says.
“But curling is my life.”
Images © Canadian Curling Association