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Always a bridesmaid, never a bride

Nicole Titkai

February 2, 2021

Curling has been one of the most important parts of my life for almost as long as I can remember. Evenings were for practicing and weekends were for competing. As a teenager I dedicated countless hours to elevating my game to hopefully one day compete at the highest level. No matter what I did, I always fell just short of my goals – second place at bantam provincials, second place at junior provincial, second place at OFSAA. Silver is nice and I know it’s still something to be proud of, but I wanted gold and all that came with it, especially nationals. At that point in my life that is all I wanted but as I aged out of juniors and shifted my focus towards school, it started to feel like this goal was slipping away; or so I thought.

Six weeks following my final junior event, I competed in my second OUA tournament. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t overly confident (sorry coach) because we were a new team and hadn’t seen much success to date. We narrowly made the playoff round, and we were set to play arguably the best team at the tournament… yet we won. In Ontario, the top two teams got to advance to the U-Sports tournament, and we were suddenly in the top four – one more win and we were in. Again, up against another great team we knew we had to play hard – we did, and we won. I remember the moment I realized we won, but even better, I remember the feeling that washed over me when I realized what that win meant. I finally won the opportunity to compete at a national tournament! We still had one more game to play, the finals, and just as you guessed it, we lost. Another silver. This one felt different though because I would now be able to take my skills to a national stage which is what I really wanted.

Fast-forward a few weeks and my team is landing in Thunder Bay, Ontario with other lucky student athletes, all ready for competition. The week at U-Sports was like nothing I had experienced before – I was surrounded by new faces and new experiences. Competition was tough and we definitely felt it. Overall, we didn’t have a great showing as a team. I accepted our defeat and was just trying to absorb as much as I could from the experience, having fun with new friends and teammates. As I sat back and enjoyed our final evening of food and awards, I was surprised to learn that I was one of the recipients. Me? Winning something? That didn’t seem right. But it was right – well sort of. I was called to the stage and awarded the Second Team All Canadian award. This award was presented to the athlete who had the second-best game statistics averaged over the week. It turns out, this award was exactly the validation I didn’t know I needed. It showed me that my years of dedication and persistence was worth it. This experience taught me an important lesson – you can be second best but still be really great. Being a bridesmaid isn’t so bad after all, and I know my “bridal moment” is still coming.