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State-of-the-art Facilities and Extrodinary Homegrown Athletes

Story by: Marc Capancioni • Credit: SooToday.com
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State-of-the-art Facilities and Extrodinary Homegrown Athletes

Exhilarating playground for active visitors

The combination of state-of-the-art facilities and extraordinary homegrown athletes makes Sault Ste. Marie an exhilarating playground for active visitors!

Keep your eyes open, you never know who you'll bump into here!

It was a moment they'll never forget.

For Team Jacobs, winning gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was an extraordinary experience on a number of levels. For the Canadian curling squad, hailing from Sault Ste. Marie, the success on the world stage was both a personal milestone and something they were proud to accomplish on behalf of their community and country.

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Photo: Donna Hopper/SooToday.com

"It was a dream come true," says skip Brad Jacobs, whose team also won the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier (National Curling Championship) and was the runner-up in the 2013 World Curling Championship. "It's something we'll always remember."

Also consisting of brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden—who are Brad's first cousins—along with Ryan Fry, Team Jacobs' Olympic gold medal was more than two decades in the making. And it was the direct result of ongoing support from Sault Ste. Marie.

"We've always had people behind us," says Brad, whose team plays out of the Soo Curlers Association. "The curling club and Sault Ste. Marie in general have always been behind us. The support has been phenomenal."

Photo: Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday.com

For the Harnden brothers, this support first began when they were kids. At just 8 and 5 years old respectively, they first stepped on a curling sheet. Their father, Eric, and uncle, Al, represented Northern Ontario at four Brier curling championships and got E.J. and Ryan involved in the sport almost as soon as they could stand on the ice.

Not long after, their cousin, Brad, joined them. When the three became teenagers, they entered the local junior program run by Tom Coulterman, from the Soo Curlers Association, who still coaches them to this day.

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Photo: Donna Hopper/SooToday.com

"Those three guys have always been there for us," says E.J., referring to father, uncle and coach. "They've been with us every step of the way and allowed us to develop our skills."

After winning gold, the curlers returned home to a welcoming celebration of several hundred people at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport. As well, messages of congratulations could be found all over town on signs and even in a municipal garden on Bay Street.

"Stuff like that is very special," says E.J. "To be able to come back home and feel the support of the entire community was truly an unbelievable feeling. We're grateful to live in such a supportive city."

Simply put, with support from family, their curling club and the entire community, Team Jacobs managed to reach success at the highest level. And with ongoing encouragement every step of the way, they're able to continue to strive to remain at the top of their game.

Meanwhile, the local curlers weren't the only Sault Ste. Marie athletes to find success in Sochi in 2014. The Marcoux brothers, Mac and B.J., brought home a gold medal, along with a pair of bronze medals, in alpine skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games, which also took place in the eastern Russian city.

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Photo: SooToday.com

Mac, who suffers from macular degeneration, started alpine skiing with his family when he was 8 years old. A few years later, he was declared legally blind, and he and his brother began training for visually-impaired competitions where a lead skier—in this case, B.J.—communicates to their partner via radio microphone on the upcoming twists, turns and dips in the downhill run.

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Photo: SooToday.com

With the support of their club, the Searchmont Ski Runners, the Marcoux brothers trained at Searchmont Resort, located just a 30-minute drive from Sault Ste. Marie. On this mountain, Mac and B.J. excelled in the sport. They were eventually asked to join the Canadian Paralympic Alpine Team.

The Marcoux brothers earned a second-place finish at the world championships in 2013, when Mac was just 15 years old. The following year, they found more success with a gold medal in Sochi.

"If it wasn't for the support of the ski club and community, it definitely wouldn't have been possible," says Mac. "We send thanks to the whole community for being so supportive. We greatly appreciate what everyone has done for us."

Though B.J. suffered a back injury and was unable to ski with his brother at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, he too acknowledges the high level of support they received as a key to their success.

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Photo: Donna Hopper/SooToday.com

"It was great to see the support we got from Sault Ste. Marie," says B.J. "It was a real eye opener for us."

After returning home from Russia, a celebration was held at the Essar Centre for the Marcoux brothers, along with Team Jacobs. At the event, thousands of people came out from across the region to congratulate the athletes, whose names were later added to the city's Walk of Fame on Queen Street and Sports Hall of Fame.

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Simply put, in Sault Ste. Marie, the community gets behind its athletes at every level and every step along the way.

With its first-rate facilities, Sault Ste. Marie offers visitors a chance to take in a number of sports, including:

Skiing – At 750 feet, Searchmont Resort is the largest ski and snowboard mountain in Northern Ontario. For Nordic skiing, head to Hiawatha Highlands or Stokely Creek, which offer more than 170 kilometers of trails.

• Curling – Learn to curl at The Soo Curlers Association, at 124 Anita Blvd., offers a "Learn to Curl" program on Wednesday nights throughout the year. To learn more, visit soocurlers.com or call 705-254-6174.

Skating - The City of Sault Ste. Marie holds indoor public skates at the John Rhodes Community Centre. The municipality also runs four outdoor rinks around the community. To find locations and operating schedules, visit cityssm.on.ca.

• Bowling - Northcrest Lanes, located at 229 Great Northern Rd., is a full-service bowling centre. Contact: 705-256-7441.

• Batting Cages - From May to September, hardball and softball batting cages are open at Strathclair Park.

Golf - Generally open from early-May until mid-October, there are five golf courses in Sault Ste. Marie and many more in the surrounding area. Also, starting in 2015, you'll be able to practice your swing indoors at the Northern Community Centre at 556 Goulais Ave.

For more information on activities in the area, visit saulttourism.com or call 1-800-461-6020.

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