TRURO, N.S. – Andrew Atherton knew the answer before he even asked the question.
With his junior girls curling team in need of a lead to fill the void left by Janique LeBlanc, the coach went to his players for suggestions on a new team member.
It was a brief discussion. Second Karlee Burgess lobbied for her cousin Lindsey, confirming what Atherton had already known.
“We needed a new lead and Karlee said we need Lindsey, and I expected her to say that,” said Atherton.
“I knew what we were losing in Janique and that Lindsey could replace that and give Karlee that support person and that positive person that she needed. I asked the question so that she could tell me what she thought, but I knew that’s where we were going.”
LeBlanc stepped away from the game at the end of last season to focus on her education. When she made those intentions known, Karlee immediately knew Lindsey would be the perfect replacement for the team that plays out of the Halifax Curling Club.
“I said to Andrew, ‘there’s no other option – I need Lindsey.’ I needed that positivity and I needed that relationship with someone because I was losing someone so big that was a part of my life.”
Needless to say, the partnership between Karlee, Lindsey, third Kristin Clarke and skip Kaitlyn Jones – who is also new to the team – has worked out pretty well.
The foursome captured the national title in January in Shawinigan, Que., and next month will represent Canada at the world championship in Aberdeen, Scotland.
“For me, personally, it really hasn’t sunk in,” said Lindsey, 18. “This was my first national, so at the beginning of the year I never even dreamed I would be going to a world championship, so I still feel like it’s a dream right now.”
Atherton said Lindsey made a seamless transition to her new team and has blossomed into a fine player at her position. She also offers an intangible that can’t be overstated.
“She’s a positive person,” he said. “She is going to keep the team in a good mood and that’s huge. When you’ve got some intensity and high expectations you need somebody who’s going to be able to keep a smile on their face too.”
Karlee, 19, will be representing Canada for the fourth time. The two-time Canadian junior champion was a gold medalist at the 2016 world championship in Denmark and the 2016 Youth Olympics in Norway. She was also an alternate last year for Kristin Streifel’s Alberta rink that won bronze at the world championship in Korea.
“It never gets old,” she said. “Getting that jersey with your name on the back and wearing that Maple Leaf, it’s such a good feeling.”
With her experience, Karlee has also taken on a leadership role and is a calming influence when things get tight, says Lindsey.
“I’m known to kind of have jitters sometimes, so I think having all three of them really helped me, and especially Karlee being so close, I was definitely able to talk to her and she was able to calm my nerves when I needed that.”
The Burgess cousins will have plenty of support at the world championship, as no less than 10 family members – including grandparents Jim and Judy Burgess – will make the trip overseas to watch Canada go for gold.
“I think it’s really special for my grandparents,” said Karlee. “They’ve followed me everywhere all across the world for all my curling and they’re going to Scotland as well, so I think it’s a really good treat for them to see both of us representing Canada, so that’s exciting.”
The event will take place March 3 to 10.
Graduated from: South Colchester Academy, Brookfield
Current studies: Second-year kinesiology student at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
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Graduated from: Cobequid Educational Centre, Truro
Current studies: First-year engineering student at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
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Did you know?
Karlee and Lindsey competed against each other in high school track and field. Karlee ran the 200m and 400m events for the SCA Wolves, while Lindsey raced in 400m and 800m competitions as a member of the CEC Cougars.