SANDRA MARIE SCHMIRLER
Sometimes in sports, athletes are put up on a pedestal because of greatness: the baseball player who can hit, catch, run or pitch with stunning grace; the hockey player who can skate with electrifying ease; the basketball player who can leap with mystifying ability; the football player who can move with endless energy.
However, beyond their contributions as athletes, it is their contributions as people that make these individuals great.
When we think of Sandra Schmirler, we are impressed not only with what she did in her pursuit of athletic excellence and how she defined herself as a winner, but what she contributed to others beyond just winning world championships and gold medals. Sandra Schmirler helped us understand that life is precious and we must appreciate it every day because it can be taken away in an instant. While Sandra only lived to the age of 36, she understood that we must place value on more than just winning and losing; we must prioritize the very simple things that are near and dear to us all, in particular family and friends.
Sandra loved her family – her husband Shannon, her daughters Sara and Jenna, her mother Shirley, her sisters Beverly and Carol, her uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews — and her many friends, not the least of whom were her teammates and soul mates – Jan Betker, Joan McCusker and Marcia Gudereit. Together, Sandra, Jan, Joan and Marcia meshed together as the greatest team in the history of women’s curling, but it was Sandra, more than the others, who was in the spotlight, and she used that spectrum wisely and carefully. Sandra came from a small town in Saskatchewan, called Biggar. As she escalated to greatness, highlighted by skipping her team to the first-ever gold medal in the Olympics, Sandra maintained her focus, never forgetting who she was and from where she had come. Moreover, she considered her greatest accomplishment was giving birth to two beautiful, healthy girls. Tragically, she never had a chance to spend as much time as she wanted with them or her husband, whom she loved with all her heart.
When we think of Sandra Schmirler, we recall that joyous moment she celebrated athletic magnificence with her teammates in Nagano, Japan on that historic day in February, 1998. But, we also recall the many deeds and words that truly made this woman a hero. She touched people by not only her desire to spend time signing autographs or speaking to her legion of fans — some of whom were touched by something as simple as her smile, others who enjoyed her witty remarks — but also helping them understand what matters most in life.
To Sandra, it was all about setting your priorities straight and putting things in the proper perspective. Despite all of her athletic greatness, Sandra realized that having the special moments to spend with her family and her friends was the greatest gift of all. Greatness is truly thrust upon few and some find it a burden to accept that gift and the responsibility that goes along with it. Sandra didn’t have that problem. Instead, she reached out to her country in sickness and in health and made us understand what really matters in life. While we mourned her passing, we continue to celebrate the moments we had with her and the lasting legacy she left behind.
Our thanks to Perry Lefko, author of Sandra Schmirler – The Queen of Curling.
SANDRA SCHMIRLER FOUNDATION
The Sandra Schmirler Foundation was created in May 2001 by a group of Sandra’s friends and her teammates. Their vision was to create a living legacy in honour of this amazing woman who touched the hearts of so many Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In 2003, TSN broadcast the inaugural Sandra Schmirler Telethon live from The Scott Tournament of Hearts creating awareness for the Foundation right across the country. We are indebted to Curling Canada and TSN for their on-going support and shared belief in the importance of ensuring that Sandra’s love of family lives on through funds raised by the Sandra Schmirler Foundation to purchase life-saving equipment for babies born premature and critically ill.