Nova Scotia curling team makes Scotties history with first deaf player

CBC

Nova Scotia's curling team has already made history at this year's Scotties tournament, before the first rock is even thrown.

Emma Logan, lead on the team skipped by her aunt Mary-Anne Arsenault, has been deaf since she was 13 months old. However, she said she's never let it stop her from competing with the "best of the best."

Her appearance at the Canadian women's championship, which takes place in Moose Jaw, Sask., from Feb. 15-23, marks the first time a deaf athlete has played in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

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As a baby, Logan lost her hearing due to meningitis. She began using hearing aids shortly after, and now wears a bright-pink cochlear implant.

But even with the implant, Logan found she was still missing out on Arsenault's calls and the comments from her fellow teammates while in noisy ice rinks.

"Facing that challenge and then having hearing loss on top of that it was probably a rocky start," Logan said. "But all season it just brought focus to the team communication, and in the end we found a way."

Colleen Jones/CBC
Colleen Jones/CBC

The rest of the team from the Mayflower Curling Club includes Kristin Clarke (alternate), Jennifer Baxter (second), and Christina Black (third).

To work on their communication, the Nova Scotia group first turned to a low-tech solution: duct tape. 

Arsenault uses two different tape colours on her mitten, so when she holds up the green side that means she wants the rock to be thrown harder, while the pink tape means throw lighter.

And while Logan said the tape works great as a quick visual cue, it's a Bluetooth microphone that has been the real game changer.

"The other sweeper wears it, and then when they're speaking it's going directly into my cochlear implant — so it's as if they're speaking directly to me," Logan said.

"I quite rely on lip reading in my everyday communication and of course in sport that's not always possible, especially when we're sweeping and it's quite dynamic."

Colleen Jones/CBC
Colleen Jones/CBC

There was still some trial and error with the microphone through the season. They originally began with Arsenault wearing it, but quickly realized it was best for other sweepers to keep it on.

The team has medical clearance to use the microphone during all Scotties' games, where Logan is hoping her presence might inspire others.

"I hope that when those in my deaf and hard-of-hearing community see me competing at such a high level of curling with this hearing loss, that they see it not [as] something that should ever hold them back," Logan said.

"But it's just another challenge to overcome, and ultimately I think it … bonded our team together."

The Scotties kicks off with the wildcard draw on Feb.14 at 9:30 p.m. AT on TSN.

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