Tyler Tardi, who for the past seven years has honed his craft on the Langley Curling Clubâ€™s ice, is officially a young Olympian.
The 16-year-old Cloverdale resident and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary student was recently selected to represent Canada at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway next February.
Tardi joins Sterling Middleton â€“ who lives in Fort St. John and plays out of the Fort St. John Curling Club â€“ as one of two B.C. curlers named to the Canadian squad.
Tardi and Middleton represented B.C. at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George this past February, where they won the bronze.
Tardi skipped the B.C. menâ€™s team and Middleton played third.
Speaking about the news, Tardi said: â€œIâ€™m at a loss for words, itâ€™s amazing. Iâ€™ve always wanted to wear the Maple Leaf and that dream has now come true.â€
Tardi said that even though making Canadaâ€™s Youth Olympics team was a â€œhugeâ€ goal of his, â€œIt was a huge shock when I finally managed to pull it off.â€
Tylerâ€™s mom Anita is proud of his accomplishment.
â€œTo be one of four curling athletes from Canada at the Youth Olympicsâ€¦ it blows us away,â€ she said.
The 16-year-old Middleton, meanwhile, was equally excited.
â€œItâ€™s an honour to be picked. Iâ€™m really happy because it was my goal for this year,â€ he said. â€œSo many people wanted to be chosen so itâ€™s pretty special to make the team.
â€œIâ€™m really looking forward to being on the team with Tyler as I think we meshed well together this year, so it will be great to curl with him again.â€
The B.C. pair will be joined by Mary Fay and Karlee Burgess from Nova Scotia, who were part of the team that took womenâ€™s silver at the Canada Winter Games.
The first event in Lillehammer is a mixed competition where each countryâ€™s team is made up of two boys and two girls.
As well, there will be a mixed doubles competition where one boy will be paired with one girl from different countries.
The 16 mixed teams include one team from the host country (Norway), two from North America, one from South America, three from Asia, one from Oceania, and eight from Europe.
Since this is Tardiâ€™s first experience at an event of this calibre, heâ€™s expecting the competition to be tough.
â€œIâ€™m not really sure what to expect from the other teams but Iâ€™m expecting them to be great so weâ€™re going to have to be on top of our game,â€ he said.
The Canadian team recently travelled to Montreal for the first of what will be several training camps over the next few months. Montreal was the destination due to the fact that the Canadian wheelchair curling championships were taking place in the suburb of Boucherville and it was a chance for the team members to get together and get some ice time.
Tardi has plenty of experience as a skip but what position heâ€™ll play for the Canadian team in Lillehammer is yet to be determined.
The skip is like the teamâ€™s captain, calling the game and throwing the last two rocks.
Curling runs in the Tardi family.
Dad Paul coaches Tyler and his 18-year-old brother Jordan, and is a curler, himself.
Paul was a competitive junior curler years ago in Manitoba.
â€œI always watched my dad play in Cloverdale, in the league, and I wanted to try it,â€ Tardi said. â€œOnce he got me out there one day, when I was maybe six or so, I loved it.â€
When the brothers decided to try curling, Paul offered to be their coach because there was a need, Anita explained.
â€œLots of kids are willing to play, but unfortunately there are not enough qualified coaches,â€ she added.
For three years Paul was the manager of Optimist Junior Interclubâ€™s Division 1, a competitive curling league in the Lower Mainland that plays out of Langley.
For his efforts and because of the success of the teams heâ€™s coached and for giving back to the curling community, Paul was named the 2014
Curl BC Coach of the Year (Anita Cochrane Award), and was the 2014 Pacific Western Brewing (PWB) Community Foundation Hometown Heroes bursary recipient.
How much of an influence does his dad have on Tylerâ€™s game?
â€œAlmost all of it,â€ he answered.
Master of mixed
Despite being the youngest curlers in the competition, the B.C. team of Tardi and Dezaray Hawes made an impact at the 2015 Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials in March.
The pair was one of only three provincial teams to make the playoff stage before eventually losing to multiple world champion Glenn Howard and his daughter Carly.
The mental aspect of curling is the most challenging element of the game, Tardi said.
â€œHow you deal with it after missing a shot,â€ he explained.
The ultimate goal for Tardi is to curl for his country at the Winter Olympic Games.
â€œItâ€™s a long process,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™d like to win nationals and go from there.â€
â€“ Files from the CurlBC website, www.curlbc.ca.
Master of mixed
Tardi is a two-time B.C. mixed doubles champion, and has competed in the 2013 and 2015 Canadian mixed doubles trials.