It’s been exactly 20 years since Canada lost one of the greatest curlers ever to play the game.
Sandra Schmirler’s death on March 2, 2000 sent a shockwave not only across this country, but around the world – she was down to earth, extremely relatable and humble to a fault.
And she won everything there was to win in the sport.
Born in Biggar, Sask., “Schmirler the Curler” was larger than life.
She was also a remarkable curler, leading her Saskatchewan foursome to three Tournament of Hearts titles, three world championships and an Olympic gold medal in 1998.
Two decades later, Schmirler’s legacy is felt at every major curling event and in rinks across Canada.
Here are some of her most memorable curling moments.
1st Hearts win
Schmirler, Jan Betker, Marcia Gudereit and Joan McCusker joined forces in 1991 and quickly made their mark on the curling world.
With the Tournament of Hearts being held in Brandon, Man., in 1993, the Saskatchewan rink made it to the final. There, they faced the hometown favourites — Maureen Bonar’s Manitoba squad — in somewhat hostile territory.
Schmirler and company silenced the crowd, capturing Saskatchewan’s first national championship in 13 years.
Back-to-back Tournament of Hearts championships
Schmirler returned to the Tournament of Hearts in 1994 as Team Canada, looking to defend the title.
After cruising through the round robin with 10 wins and just one loss, Schmirler earned a direct entry into the championship game.
Down 3-2 to Manitoba’s Connie Laliberte in the final end, Schmirler found some magic and scored three in the 10th to capture her second-straight national title.
3-time Hearts Champion
Schmirler would win her third and final Tournament of Hearts championship in Vancouver in 1997.
She took on Ontario’s Alison Goring in the championship game – Schmirler took an early 3-0 lead after stealing two in the second end and would cruise to victory.
Schmirler ran Ontario out of stones in the 10th end to win the women’s Canadian championship for a third time in five years.
In late November, 1997 after winning the Tournament of Hearts and World Championship, Schmirler took aim at earning the right to represent Canada at the 1998 Olympics.
She’d make it all the way to the championship game against Shannon Kleibrink.
The pressure was immense and it was a back and forth battle throughout the draw.
In trouble, down 4-3 in the seventh end, Schmirler made one of the more memorable shots in curling. She played an in-off, ricocheting her rock off her own yellow stone at the top of the twelve-foot, careening it toward the button, and taking out Kleibrink’s rock to score three.
Schmirler scored three more in the ninth end to secure a 9-6 victory and represent Canada at Nagano 1998.
WATCH | ‘The Shot’:
Schmirler and her Saskatchewan foursome were the heavy favourites heading into the 1998 Olympics having won three world championships in the past five years.
And it was a relatively easy round robin for the team, going 8-1 through the nine games. But their gold medal journey nearly came to a screeching halt in the semifinal against Great Britain.
With hammer in the extra end, all Schmirler needed to do was draw her rock into the full eight-foot, but it looked heavy.
The team and fans watched as the rock kept sliding. It stopped just in time for victory. Schmirler was overrun with emotion and relief and now poised for a gold medal matchup.
WATCH | Schmirler comes up clutch against Great Britain:
The gold medal game lacked drama as Schmirler scored three in the first end against Denmark and never looked back. They’d win 7-5 and claim Canada’s first Olympic gold medal.
WATCH | Schmirler wins Canada’s 1st Olympic gold medal:
When they returned to Regina, more than 1,500 people packed the airport to welcome the team home.