Sandra Schmirler

Sandra Schmirler

Infobox Person
name = Sandra Marie Schmirler

image_size =
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birth_name =
birth_date = Birth date|1963|6|11
birth_place = Biggar, SK, CA
death_date = Death date and age|2000|3|3|1963|6|11
death_place = Regina, SK, CA
death_cause = cancer
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residence =
nationality = Canadian
other_names = Sandra Peterson
known_for = Athletics (curling)
education =
alma_mater = University of Saskatchewan
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Sandra Marie Schmirler (June 11, 1963March 3, 2000), SOM was a Canadian curler, who captured three Canadian Curling Championships (Scott Tournament of Hearts) and three World Curling Championships. Schmirler skipped her Canadian team to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first year curling was a medal sport. At tournaments where she was not competing, Schmirler sometimes worked as a commentator for CBC sports. She died in 2000 at 36 of cancer.

Curling career

While attending school in Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada, Schmirler started curling in Grade 7 as part of the school's physical education program. She grew up an athlete, playing volleyball, badminton, and softball. She was also an avid speed swimmer. [Lefko, p.12] She continued to curl on the local scene, participating in the Bangor ladies' league in Grade 9. [ Lefko, p.15] Playing as third on her high school team, she won a provincial championship in Grade 12, when her team went undefeated throughout the season. [Lefko, P.17] She continued to curl after graduating high school and attending the University of Saskatchewan. While in university, Schmirler made her first appearance in Saskatchewan's provincial playdowns in 1983. [Lefko, p.19] After graduating university, Schmirler moved to Regina, to take a job at the North West Leisure Center. She continued to curl, and was given the nickname "Schmirler the Curler" by a supervisor at the facility. [Lefko, p.24] In 1987, as a member of Kathy Fahlman's rink, Schmirler won her first provincial championship. [Lefko, p.25]

Prior to the 1988-1989 curling season, Schmirler and Jan Betker found themselves curling with different teammates, attempting to put together a stable squad. Entering the 1990-1991 curling season, Schmirler decided to skip, with Betker playing third. They recruited Joan (Inglis) McCusker to play second, who recommended Marcia Gudereit as a lead. This rink won provincials in their first year together, finishing in fourth place at the Scott Tournament of Hearts. [Lefko, p.28-29] In 1993, the Schmirler rink again won the provincial title to move on to the Scott again. Her rink defeated Maureen Bonar in the finals. It was the first national women's curling championship for Saskatchewan since Marj Mitchell in 1980. The rink moved on and defeated Janet Clews-Strayer from Germany in the final game of the World Championships that year. [Lefko, p.34-38] The next season, her rink repeated both of these achievements. At the time, no other Canadian rink (men or women) had won consecutive world championships. [Lefko, p.46-47] In 1997, Schmirler and her rink won the Canadian and World Championships for a third time. [Lefko, p.57] After each of these three seasons, her rink was named 'Team of the Year' by Sask Sport.cite web|url=|title=Dancing with Regina's Stars: Meet the Stars: Jan Betker|date=2008|publisher=Regina Ballroom Dancing Club|accessdate=2008-06-25]

In the 1998 Winter Olympics, curling would be a medal sport for the first time. To select Canada's representative, Olympic trials were held in November, 1997. The Schmirler rink finished first in the round robin, and played Shannon Kleibrink in the finals. They defeated her rink 9-6 in the final, behind strong shot making from Schmirler and McCusker. [Lefko, p.62-65] Schmirler had to make a difficult in-off to win. The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan. The Schmirler rink was among the favorites for gold, but there was a strong field in the event. The semi-final against Great Britain's Kirsty Hay was tied after regulation play and went to extra ends, winning on a draw with Schmirler's last rock which she nearly missed. In the finals against Denmark, Canada won the gold medal. [Lefko, p.72-77] After winning the gold medal, Sandra appeared on the front page of the "New York Times". [Lefko, p.77] After the Olympics, the Schmirler rink was named 'Team of the Year' by the Canadian Press. They were also inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 1999. After returning from the Olympics, Schmirler and her rink had to compete almost immediately in the Scott Tournament of Hearts, as Team Canada. After losing in the semis, Schmirler joined CBC as a colour commentator for the final match. [Lefko, p. 83-85]


Family and education

Schmirler was born June 11, 1963 to her parents Shirley and Art. She was born with a club foot which required her to wear a cast for two months. She had two older sisters, Carol and Beverley. [Lefko, p.8] She attended high school in Biggar, and moved to Saskatoon to attend university. She started out towards a degree in computer science, but transferred after her first year to work for a degree in physical education. [Lefko, p.17] She convocated with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1985. [Lefko, p.21] After moving to Regina, she met and married Del Peterson on August 1, 1987. They separated in 1992, and divorced a year later. [Lefko, p.31] She curled under her married name of Sandra Peterson from 1987 to 1996. [Lefko, p. 27, 53]

In 1993, teammate Marcia Gudereit introduced Schmirler to Shannon England. On June 22, 1996, they were married. [Lefko, p.53] In 1997, Schmirler was pregnant with their first child. When this information was revealed to reporters at the Scott Tournament of Hearts, they jokingly dubbed her "Schmirler the Hurler". On September 15, 1997, their daughter Sara Marion was born. [Lefko, p.57-58] In April 1999, Sandra's father Art Schmirler passed away from cancer. On June 30, 1999, the couple's second daughter, Jenna Shirley was born. [Lefko, p.93]

Illness and death

After Jenna's birth, Sandra experienced many health problems. Testing discovered a cancerous node the size of a fist behind her heart. [Lefko, p.97] As her condition worsened, she underwent surgery on September 6, 1999. During surgery, a dead piece of the tumour broke off and released a blood clot into her lung. Her heart stopped beating, and only emergency heart massage kept her alive. [Lefko, p.94-95] Almost a month after being diagnosed with cancer, doctors finally provided a specific diagnosis – metastatic adeno carcinoma, with an unknown primary site. Because of the inability of anyone to pin down where the cancer came from, Sandra referred to it as "the cancer from Mars." [Lefko, p.101] In addition to chemotherapy and radiation, Schmirler explored orthomolecular medicine, through the Canadian Cancer Research Group. This form of alternative medicine involves large doses of vitamins and nutrients. [Lefko, p.101]

In 2000, Schmirler worked as colour commentator for CBC during Canada's national junior curling championships. [Lefko, p.110] During her illness, Schmirler had been largely removed from the public eye. While in Moncton for the tournament, Schmirler held a press conference to update her situation. In speaking publicly about her ordeal for the first time, Schmirler spared few details about what she had gone through, while also expressing her hope for the future: "There were three goals I had coming out of this thing, and the first one was to look after my family. And the second one...because I curl so much, I've never taken a hot vacation, so I'm going to put my feet in the sand in a warm place. And the last one was to actually be here today, and I thank CBC, I thank Lawrence (Kimber), and Joan Mead." [Lefko, p. 113-120]

After returning from Moncton, Schmirler felt physically well, but suffered a setback when a CAT scan revealed spots around her lungs. The decision was made not to proceed with further chemotherapy, but she continued with the orthomolecular therapy. [Lefko, p.128] She had been scheduled to work the 2000 Scott Tournament of Hearts, but was unable to do so. She faxed a statement from the hospital, which was read by TSN's Vic Rauter. "I'm still fighting hard and I still hope to make it to the Brier, not playing but talking. For Saskatchewan, I was hoping to be in your green shoes (at the Scott). But keep things in perspective. There are other things in life besides curling, which I have found. But I hope to be on the curling trail again next year. And I'll see you all in Sudbury (the next Scott site) in 2001. Your curling friend, Sandra." [Lefko, p.133] The optimism in her statement belied the seriousness of her condition. She had been moved to palliative care. [Lefko, p.133-134] She died on the morning of March 3, 2000 at age 36.cite web|url=|title=Saskatchewan mourns Sandra Schmirler|date=2000-03-02|publisher=CBC|accessdate=2008-06-25]

Her death caused reactions not just within Saskatchewan and the curling community, but across the country. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said in a statement: "All Canadians have been touched by the untimely death of Sandra Schmirler. Most of us came to know her through her exploits as a champion curler and as an exemplary sports ambassador for Canada. But what really set her apart was her bright, engaging personality and her incredible zest for life, qualities that were so clearly in evidence as she fought so valiantly against her illness. She will be sorely missed." [Lefko, p.141-142]

TSN offered to broadcast her funeral live, and make the signal available to any other stations at no charge. England agreed to the broadcast, on the condition that the family was not shown during the service. CBC also broadcast the service, marking the first time a Canadian athlete's funeral had been televised live on two networks. [Lefko, p. 143] The Labatt Brier was just getting underway and games in the afternoon draw were delayed to allow curlers and fans to watch the funeral, which was broadcast on screens at the rink. Regina's Agridome, and Schmirler's home Caledonian Curling Club also opened to show the funeral. [Lefko, p. 145] Nine hundred people attended the service at the Regina Funeral Home, thousands watched at the satellite locations around the province, and hundreds of thousands watched on television. [Lefko, p. 153] The funeral was conducted by The Rev. Don Wells, and Sandra was eulogized by Brian McCusker, teammate Joan McCusker's husband. [Lefko, p.149] [cite web|title=Debates of the Senate (Hansard), 2nd Session, 36th Parliament,Volume 138, Issue 36|publisher=Government of Canada|url= |date=2000-03-21 |accessdate=2008-07-22]

Awards and honours

In addition to the titles captured by her team on the ice, Schmirler has been recognized in several different ways off the ice as well. In 2000, Schmirler was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, becoming the first posthumous recipient.cite web | title = Eight Citizen's Recognized with Province's Top Honour | url = | publisher = Government of Saskatchewan | date = 2000-10-26 | accessdate = 2008-08-07] Along with the other members of her rink, she had been previously awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Regina.cite web|url=|title=University of Regina General Calendar|publisher=University of Regina|accessdate=2008-06-25] In the fall of 2000, Schmirler was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.cite web|url=|title=Schmirler, Sandra (1963-2000)|last=Coneghan|first=Daria|coauthors=Erin Legg, Holden Stoffel|date=2006|publisher=Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina|accessdate=2008-06-25] cite web | title = Canada Sports Hall of Fame - Honoured Members: Profile Sandra Schmirler| url = | publisher = Canada Sports Hall of Fame | accessdate = 2008-07-22]

After her death, the city of Regina honoured Schmirler in several ways. The South East Leisure Centre where she used to work was renamed the "Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre", and the road leading up to the Callie Curling Club, where her team curled out of, was renamed "Sandra Schmirler Way."cite web|url=|title=Regina honours memory of Schmirler|date=2000-11-10|publisher=CBC Sports|accessdate=2008-06-27] Schmirler's hometown of Biggar also honoured her memory with the construction of "The Sandra Schmirler Olympic Gold Park."cite web|url=|title=Schmirler Olympic Gold Park opens in Sask.|date=2000-08-06|publisher=CBC Sports|accessdate=2008-06-27]

Scott Paper created the Sandra Schmirler Foundation in February 2001. The foundation raises funds to help care for babies in crisis through direct donations to benefit neonatal care across Canada. In the charity's first four years of existence donations were made to the Children's Miracle Network, Canadian Cystic Fybrosis Foundation and Canadian Ronald McDonald Houses. After altering the charity's mission to focus on neonatal care, donations have been made directly to hospitals in Halifax, Regina, London, Lethbridge, Hamilton and Victoria.cite web | title = Sandra Schmirler Foundation: Frequently Asked Questions | url = | publisher = Sandra Schmirler Foundation | date = 2008 | accessdate = 2008-07-22]



*Harvard reference|Surname=Lefko|Given=Perry|Year=2000|Title=Sandra Schmirler: The Queen of Curling|Publisher=Stoddart|ID=ISBN 0773732756

External links

* [ The Sandra Schmirler Foundation]

NAME = Schmirler, Sandra
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Peterson, Sandra
SHORT DESCRIPTION = World & Olympic champion curler
DATE OF BIRTH = 11 June, 1963
PLACE OF BIRTH = Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada
DATE OF DEATH = 3 March, 2000
PLACE OF DEATH = Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

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