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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Njegovan getting accustomed to curling bubble

For the love of curling, you do whatever you have to do to keep playing. 

Selena Njegovan, third for East St. Paul’s Tracy Fleury, recently spent almost two weeks competing at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in the Calgary bubble, constantly following COVID-19 restrictions and spending most of her time off the ice alone in her hotel room. 

Once returning to Manitoba, Njegovan immediately went into a two-week isolation. Almost as soon as that is over, Njegovan will go back to Calgary where she will be paired with Reid Carruthers, the third for Manitoba’s Mike McEwen, in the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship. Njegovan will then isolate at home for another two weeks before returning yet again to Calgary to compete in a pair of Grand Slam events to be played in the bubble. 

“I went to the Scotties, then home to isolate,” she said. “Then, I’m going back to the Mixed Doubles, then back home to isolate for two more weeks. Then going to back to two Slam events, then isolate for two more weeks. 

“But at least we’re curling.” 

After a delayed start to the current season, curling was shut down due to the pandemic and the curlers didn’t even know if they would be competing at all during a critical season leading up to the 2021 Canadian Curling Trials, with the Canadian Team Ranking System points crucial to qualifying for those trials. 

“It’s a quick return, but some of us haven’t curled all year, so it’s exciting to get back there,” said Njegovan, who has no qualms with adhering to all of the restrictions everyone faced during the Scotties. “The protocols and restrictions were all handled very well.” 

Fleury, of course, decided to stay at home in Sudbury, Ont., to look after her infant daughter, who had taken ill, and was replaced at skip by transplanted Manitoban Chelsea Carey at the Scotties. Carey skipped them into the championship round. 

“Obviously, we didn’t know what to expect and we were happy to make the championship round, so it went very well,” said Njegovan, 29. “I was happy with my performance.” 

Despite adjusting to a new skip, Njegovan earned second-team all-star honours. 

“Chelsea’s a great skip and called the right ice and we’re all very proud of our performance,” said Njegovan, also referring to second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish. “We just got a few bad breaks along the way.” 

Carey believes the foursome could have made the playoffs.   

“We felt that we were playing better than the results we were getting, unfortunately,” she said during a Zoom press conference. “But, sometimes that happens. There’s luck and fate involved in events like this and unfortunately, it just wasn’t on our side this week.” 

Carey, who had been without a team at the start of the season, accepted an offer to become the team’s fifth. Then, she moved up to skip. 

“I was really grateful for the opportunity to play with these girls,” Carey said. “They’re a great team and they’re just a lot of fun. Obviously, this week, the results weren’t what we wanted, but it’s been the most fun I’ve had curling in a long time.” 

It might not be her last time as the team does not know if Fleury will return to curl in the Slam events. She will likely decide this weekend. 

BITERS: Tracy Fleury, by the way, already has a trials spot … Connor Njegovan, Selena’s husband, will compete in the Brier at lead for Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson … Many are still scratching their heads over Curling Canada’s decision not to include Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson in the Mixed Doubles championship. “There was a new criteria and no one knew what it was,” Njegovan said incredulously. 

Jim Bender writes on variety of sport topics for the Selkirk Settler Times. Bender has more than three decades of experience as a journalist.

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