When Jody Lee, Rhonda Sinclair, Lori Olson and Kary Anne Kjelshus took the curling ice for the first time as a team back in 1992, the group never imagined they would one day join the athletic elite of Wood Buffalo.
The four members of 1992 Alberta Junior Women’s curling champions are the latest inductees of the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame along with their coach Randy Olson and Diane Lee, the lead from their 1995 Alberta Junior Women’s curling championship team.
“It was quite a surprise but an absolute honour to be inducted into the Wood Buffalo Sport Hall of Fame,” said the team’s second, Lori Olson. “Fort McMurray is definitely my roots and I am very honoured to be ranked among the top athletes from that region.”
The team captured a gold medal at the provincial junior women’s curling tournament in 1992 despite it being their first year together as a squad.
“We were a work in progress all the time,” remembers coach Randy Olson. “They were a very young group with an experience skip in Rhonda. We had to do a lot of technical work before winning a championship.”
Playing out of MacDonald Island, the junior team had to compete against local senior women’s teams to get steady matches. They also made the long commutes south to take on Alberta’s best.
It was our dedication,” said Sinclair, who now goes by her married name Rhonda Wittaker. “We all had the same goals to make it and we put in the effort to achieve them.”
In 1995, Sinclair was past the 20-year-old age limit for the tournament and Diane Lee stepped into the empty spot.
She moved into the lead position, Olson moved to third, Caines went to second and Jody Lee took over as the team’s skip.
Diane Lee says the transition was easy due to playing with her sister, Jody, and curling on and off with and against the three members before officially joining the roster.
“We all got along very well,” she said. “We treated each other like family and we had a lot of respect for each other and what we were trying to do as a team.”
The team still keeps in close contact today. The Lee sisters and Sinclair still live in Fort McMurray while Kjelshus, now Kary Anne Caines, lives in southern Alberta.
Randy Olson recent moved from McMurray to St. Albert and still coaches competitive rinks. His daughter, Lori is currently curling with Cathy King in Edmonton and is aiming for a spot in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The team will be officially inducted into the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame at the hall’s dinner on Sept. 18.
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