We actually got our bronze medals stuck in the ice at the curling rink,” admits Thomas Scoffin a little sheepishly.
“After the medal ceremony we placed our medals on the Olympic rings painted into the ice to take a picture. They melted in and got stuck. It took us a bit of work – and some subtle chipping – to get them back out again.”
The 17-year-old Whitehorse resident has just returned from Innsbruck, Austria, where he had the honour of skipping Team Canada at the first-ever Junior Winter Olympic Games.
“The Olympic atmosphere is incomparable to anything. The chance to take part in multi-sport games with people from around the world with such diverse perspectives was amazing,” he enthuses.
“I’ve been curling since I was this big,” says Scoffin, indicating a point near his knees.
“My parents got me into it at a very young age and I just never looked back.”
He truly hasn’t. The young athlete is training seven days a week right now, both at the gym and Mt. McIntyre and travels out of the territory regularly to compete.
“Being from the Yukon gives me lots of opportunities to travel and compete,” he explains. “It means I miss a lot of school, but I wouldn’t change it for the world – it’s necessary to play against a high level competition to continue to improve.”
Scoffin manages to spend some of his spare moments helping to foster the curling community in the territory.
When he can, he works with Special Olympics Yukon’s curlers, and he helps support the couple of junior teams that are coming up behind him and his Team Yukon teammates.
The Whitehorse Curling Club currently has about 25 curlers on its roster who are between the ages of 15 and 20. Scoffin says it’s a tightly-knit community of players working to support each other to reach their goals.
Most recently Scoffin’s own goal was to make Team Canada.
“As a Canadian curler it’s a huge honour to make the team,” he says.
“There are so many talented curlers across the country that when I and my teammates were chosen we made a serious commitment to work as hard as we could and to make sure there were no regrets when we stepped off the ice at the end.”
And that is exactly what they did. The team took the bronze medal in Innsbruck after a nail-bitingly close match against Sweden.
“Winning the bronze was great,” smiles Scoffin.
“It was a close, entertaining, hard-fought game and that’s really how you want to win a medal. What feels really amazing, though, is the fact the we won Canada’s first-ever medals at a Junior Olympic Games – no one can ever take something like that away from you.”
Not one to sit on his laurels, Scoffin is already looking to the future and setting new goals.
This week he and his Team Yukon foursome are heading to Napanee, Ontario,for the national games. It will be Scoffin’s sixth time representing the territory at the national event.
“I feel like it’s the best team we’ve ever fielded,” he explains, “so I’m feeling very positive about our chances.”
The winner of the national games will move onto the World Championships in Sweden next month.
After his time in Innsbruck, however, he has set his sights even higher than national games.
“Now that I’ve had a taste of international play with the maple leaf on my back, I want to go back and improve on that bronze medal finish,” he says.
Although Scoffin will be too old for the next Junior Olympics in Norway in four years time – the cutoff is 18 years of age – he doesn’t see why he can’t aim for a berth on Team Canada.
With his drive and passion he’s definitely on the path to making that dream a reality.
Amber Church is an artist, painter, writer, climate change researcher – and sports fanatic. You can contact her at [email protected].