By Vivian Collings
Dreams do come true for those who put in work with passion and dedication.
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Grade 12 student Owen Nicholls knows this well after receiving the honour of representing Ontario with his U18 team from the London Curling Club, Team Stratton, at the Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island at the end of February.
The team won all six of their games in the Canada Winter Games trials in Guelph in December, ending with a nail-biting final against Team Rajala from North Bay.
“The last one was a big one, and we all knew it. When you get to a final, all the other games become almost irrelevant, other than information we can take from it, because this is a game where if you lose you go home, if you win you go to the Canada Winter Games,” said the team lead.
With the chance to go to the Canada Winter Games dependent on one last game, the team owes their success to their ability to stay calm and focused.
“We kept repeating to each other during that game, ‘We didn’t come to lose.’ After that game, we were flooded with excitement and honor,” Owen said. “To represent your province is something a lot of people dream to do and to be able to do it is something that can’t be forgotten and feels amazing.”
Owen commends the Haliburton Curling Club for giving him his start in curling.
“This is a huge reason why I am able to get to where I am today,” he said, thanking his coaches Hugh Nichol and Terry Lawrence especially.
His parents said his passion and drive for the sport was evident since he started.
“He lives for it,” said his father Erin Nicholls. “He loves the sport. He follows it at all the levels; men, women, juniors, doesn’t matter who, he follows it. Determination has come as he’s grown. It’s always about having fun, but as he gets older and the game is more competitive, he’s embraced that.”
His mother, Brianna Elder, said Owen always puts his best foot forward to everything he commits to.
Winning the Canada Winter Games Trials was a highlight for both parents because they got to see Owen’s hard work rewarded in the best way imaginable; to compete nationally.
“I cried. I knew I would. It was such a proud moment as a parent,” Elder said. “He and his team were so focused on the game. When they won, Owen’s smile was amazing to see.”
Owen also said a pivotal moment in his curling career was getting to win the Gore Mutual High School Boys provincial championship alongside Jacob Dobson, HHSS alumnus.
“This is how I got into the competitive circuit when Jacob asked me to be on his U21 competitive team. This is how I met a lot of people and brought me to getting invited to play with Team Collins, a U18 team at the provincials in 2022 where we placed third,” Owen said.
It was at this competition that Team Stratton watched Owen play and later invited him to join as lead.
Team Stratton is focused on a few more competitions before the Canada Winter Games, and recently won the U18 provincial championship on Jan. 15.
“As a team, we will be focusing hard and practicing harder to prepare for these events, which in itself will prepare us for the Canada Winter Games,” Owen said. “I am most looking forward to going to PEI in all our Ontario gear and experiencing what a Winter Games feels like and the atmosphere and fun that surrounds it.”
Owen continues to play with the Haliburton Curling Club and is now a volunteer coach himself.
“I am very thankful for the Haliburton Curling Club,” he said.