ABBOTSFORD, B.C. —Rob Armitage’s long quest for a Canadian crown finally ended Sunday.
Armitage, despite numerous attempts, never managed to make it out of his perennial powerhouse province in three decades at the men’s level as repeat Alberta and Brier champs Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey often prevailed.
“It’s nice to get them both done — win my first province, and within a month win a Canadian,” Armitage said after he and his Red Deer foursome defeated Glenn Goss of Newfoundland 5-2 in the final of the Canadian senior men’s curling championship.
None of his rink mates — third Keith Glover, second Randy Ponich or lead Wilf Edgar — had won at the national junior, men’s or senior men’s levels either. Suffice to say the moment was not lost on Armitage, who lists his occupation with a contracting company as “jack of all trades.”
“It means everything,” said Armitage. “I worked on a (livestock) feedlot for 25 years (and) I didn’t get married until I was 35, because every day I took off I went curling. I booked all of my holidays to go around curling. … I’ve put in a lot of time at this game. I had bad knees, and then I couldn’t practise — but stuck with it anyway. It’s really gratifying.”
It was a tough afternoon for the Cunningham family as the men’s and women’s finals were held at the same time on ice sheets next to each other. While Cathy surrendered the women’s title in a 9-5 loss to Cathy King of Edmonton, her husband Geoff missed out on a men’s championship. Geoff Cunningham threw skip stones for the Goss rink.
The turning point came in the sixth end as Geoff Cunningham tried to reduce his squad’s 3-1 deficit, but missed on a run-back attempt with the hammer. Armitage stole two and never looked back.
Meanwhile, King earned a rare Canadian curling triple crown Sunday afternoon.
The Edmonton skip became the first female to win Canadian junior, women’s and seniors championships. Canadian Curling Association officials confirmed that no other woman has achieved the same national honours.
“It makes me feel so proud,” said King, 52. “It could have gone either way, that game, really, the way that both teams were playing. There were some key shots made and some key shots missed. I’m just so happy we ended up on the right end of the winning stick there.”
King’s victory enabled Alberta rinks to sweep their way to both the men’s and women’s seniors titles over their Newfoundland and Labrador counterparts.
King won the Canadian women’s championship, now known as the Scotties, under her former married name Borst in 1998, and claimed back-to-back national junior women’s titles in 1977 and 1978. She plans to put her seniors gold medal alongside other honours that she has won over the years in a glass case at home.
“Winning the Scotties has gotta be the ultimate, but this is really special,” said King.
“We are a team that just got together this year. I’m really proud of my team. A couple of them have never actually been to a Canadian championship before.”
The winning rink included third Carolyn Morris, Lesley McEwan and Doreen Gores. The trio asked King to join them after their former skip retired following the 2011 season. King, who curled with a combined Edmonton-Calgary team last year, accepted because it meant less travel to practices and competitions.
She locked up the win in the ninth end as a Cunningham miss enabled her to steal three. As a result, a close 6-5 contest was turned into the final margin of victory.
“If she gets one there, it’s tied up going home,” said King. “It’s anybody’s game really. I was just mentally preparing myself for having to draw to the pin to win. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do that.”
“It was a good game up until the ninth end,” said Cunningham, 52. “I missed a shot in nine and that was the end of it.”
King overcame a 5-4 deficit in the seventh end as she drew for two after Cunningham admittedly “over-curled” her last shot. The loss prevented Cunningham, a 13-time provincial champion with 12 in women’s play and one at the senior level, from earning her first Canadian title in any age group.
Cunningham was denied a Scotties title in 2003 when her rink fell in the final to Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia. The Newfoundland and Labrador skip earned revenge of sorts as she eliminated Jones in a semifinal here, but the national title remained elusive.
“I’m not sure I’m still looking, but I don’t have one,” said Cunningham, a travel agency manager, who plans to contemplate her curling future while weighing the time demands of her career and sport.