What's happening at BalancePlus?
Browse past and current curling news as it pertains to BalancePlus products and athletes.
In celebration of the 15th Anniversary of the Sandra Schmirler team winning gold at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano – the first ever gold medal for curling – we are pleased to announce that we are producing a limited edition commemorative broom. Only 100 brooms will be produced for sale and will be available on a first come first serve basis. For every broom ordered, BalancePlus will donate $100 to the Sandra Schmirler Foundation. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate Sandra. Order yours today!
The Foundation was created by Sandra’s teammates, family and friends as a legacy to three-time world curling champion and Olympic gold medalist Sandra Schmirler, in celebration of her love of family. Recognizing that “Champions Start Small”, the Foundation raises and donates funds for the care of premature and critically ill babies. To date over $2.1 million has been donated to 27 hospitals across Canada for babies born too soon, too small, too sick.
Please click HERE to visit Sandra Schmirler’s webpage.
By Heather Travis
Alumni Gazette, Winter 2011 issue
Tom Jenkyn held his breath as he watched the Canadian Olympic women’s curling team sweep across the ice in their first round robin match-up. He had more to stake on their success than a few dollars on a win – his research was being put on the line.
The kinesiology and mechanical and materials engineering professor sent about 60 samples of his latest invention – the EQualizer Brush-Heads – to the country’s elite curling athletes at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The Canadian women’s team led by Cheryl Bernard and the men’s team led by Kevin Martin used the brush heads during the Games.
“They tell us they can drag rocks further – five to six feet further than they could with regular brooms,” say Jenkyn of the experts lauding the new broom head. “That’s the kind of thing that wins games.
“These are things as sports scientists we can’t predict, but it’s truly gratifying when the pros come back and tell us these things – that they really like the product.”
The newly designed broom heads were jumpstarted by Jenkyn’s research for Own The Podium. With a specialization in orthopedic biomechanics, he was commissioned by the Canadian Olympic Committee to participate in a five-year study funded by an $8 million ‘Top Secret’ Fund.
After receiving support from the Canadian Curling Association, and the assistance of Olympic-level curling coach Scott Arnold, BA’87 (Economics), Jenkyn began research in 2007 to find out what happens when curlers sweep a stone across the ice.
“I usually deal with people with bad knees and hips, but we could apply the same methods and same knowledge of how people with bad joints move their bodies to how people with a curling broom move their bodies,” he says.
After conducting about three years of research using infrared cameras to examine the effects of sweeping on a curling rink, Jenkyn discovered heat was not being generated and the ice was not melting, unlike what was previously thought.
Jenkyn and his colleagues Scott Arnold and University of Western Ontario engineering researcher Jeff Wood decided to design a curling broom head that would achieve the desired friction and heat transfer to move the rocks further.
In Jenkyn’s design, a layer of foil has been added under the synthetic fabric on the broom head, creating an infrared mirror, which generates friction and heat as a person sweeps, and this melts the ice to slide the rock further.
The curling broom head can be fit to existing broom shafts and is more effective in heating the ice.
“When you are doing the same effort, same sweeping stroke, more of your energy goes into heating up that ice, and therefore more of that energy goes into making that rock do what you want it to do,” he says.
While a lot depends on a shooter making a good shot, Jenkyn’s broom head design puts more power into the hands of the sweepers to fix the shot after it is on its way.
Now with a licensing agreement with BalancePlus to manufacture and sell the broom heads in Canada and the United States, Jenkyn and his colleagues are able to get their patented EQualizer Brush-Heads, into the hands of the average curler to help improve their game.
“You can spend a lot of time in sport science doing this kind of research and rarely does a product like this pop up,” he notes.
Jenkyn doesn’t take credit for the silver captured by Bernard’s Olympic women’s curling team in Vancouver, nor the gold medals hanging around the necks of Martin’s men’s team because good brooms still require good curlers, he says. However, he is happy to revolutionize the tools of game and give Canadians curlers an advantage at the rink.
Now that the curling broom head has reached commercialization, Jenkyn has a few other designs up his sleeve to put his bank of research data to work.
“Yes, we did help the elites, but this product is going to help the amateurs, the seniors, the kids. For the average curler out there, this will truly improve your curling,” he says.
Feb 1, 2011
New curling broom technology developed in secrecy for Canada’s Olympians is now available to the masses.
The Equalizer broom head features a strip of insulation which directs more heat onto the ice while curlers are sweeping, making the rock travel further with less effort.
The technology was developed by the University of Western Ontario under Own The Podium’s Top Secret program. Own The Podium spent about $8 million heading into the 2010 Olympics coming up with technological advances for Canada’s athletes.
UWO still has the patent, but sold the licensing rights to BalancePlus, a Milton, Ont., curling supply company. A company co-founder says they’ve moved “thousands” of the Equalizer brush heads, at $30 each, in just three months.
“Since we made them available in November, we’ve had a difficult time keeping up with requests,” Scott Taylor said.
“Anyone who has curled many games in a row, whether it’s two a day or three in a row in a bonspiel, and on that last end the skip throws a little light and you’re the one that’s supposed to sweep it, you’re pretty happy if it’s easier.”
Many recreational and elite curlers are embracing the Equalizer, but surprisingly Canada’s Olympic teams are not. The Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard rinks, winners of gold and silver medals respectively at last year’s Winter Games, don’t use it, even though the technology was initially designed for them.
Martin isn’t convinced his front end of Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy, considered the strongest sweepers in the world, can get much more out of the new technology.
Bernard’s Calgary team used them at the Olympics, but haven’t since.
“I need to see more proof and my team feels the same way,” Bernard said. “Did it make a difference? Like my lead said ‘When you have 7,000 screaming fans screaming for you to sweep a rock, you have a lot of adrenaline so was it the head or the broom?’ I don’t know.”
In Bernard’s case, sponsorship is a deterrent. She doesn’t want to use brush heads manufactured by one curling company when she is sponsored by another.
Martin says sponsorship doesn’t prevent him from using the new brush heads. He just doesn’t believe there’s enough of an advantage to warrant a switch.
He’s also concerned the broom head under such power could strip the ice of its “pebble” — the droplets of water spread on the ice and frozen to decrease friction and allow rocks to slide.
“I kind of think it damages the ice, so we’ll have to have some testing done,” Martin said.
Taylor says the brush heads are constructed with a less abrasive cloth to prevent the stripping of pebble.
“Obviously the better sweeper you are, the more you wear the pebble out and that’s not great for curling,” he said. “With this technology we don’t need to produce as much heat so we can use a finer, smoother cloth, which makes it less destructive on the pebble.”
Glenn Howard’s Canadian and world championship team is using the new brush heads, as is Wayne Middaugh’s Ontario team.
“We noticed on the arena ice, it made a huge difference,” Middaugh said. “We could control the rocks a lot more. You didn’t have to sweep so early. You could wait a little bit longer and control the curl a little bit more.”
Howard’s team is sponsored by BalancePlus. The skip is convinced after using the Equalizer for the past few weeks.
“I’m a firm believer it is definitely more effective,” Howard said. “It’s proven that it creates more heat and the theory is the more heat, the more effective the broom head is from the standpoint of dragging the rock further and keeping it straighter.
“The only concern is whether it’s going to wear the pebble down sooner than normal. If that happens, it could be a bit of an issue, but it hasn’t.”
Mathew Camm’s Ontario rink is one of the teams using the new broom head this week at the Canadian junior championship in Calgary. Third Scott Howard, Glenn’s son, says the Equalizer is effective, but he discovered when he started using it last month that the brush head needs to be broken in.
“We had to work them in. We couldn’t use a brand-new head the first game,” Scott said. “They’re more effective on their second game.
“We love them. We found there’s a huge difference. If feels like we’re not working as hard.”
National development coach Paul Webster is encouraging the junior curlers to use the new brooms this week. He’d like to see at least half of them with the Equalizer in their hands.
In decent ice conditions, he says the young curlers can drag a rock a metre or more further with the new technology.
“We want to make sure when these curlers go to competitions such as this that they don’t leave it in their bag,” Webster said. “They want to go to their big championships with every possible advantage given to them.”
Icemaker Jamie Bourassa is keeping an eye on the sheets at both the North Hill and Glencoe clubs this week for signs of wear and tear from the Equalizer.
“I just did ice for our provincial ladies here in Alberta and I know about half the teams are using them and I really didn’t see any effect,” he said. “We had lots of pebble left, even extra-end games.”
New technology in any sport generates debate between those who embrace it and the purists who don’t like messing with tradition. Glenn Howard has heard the argument that the high-tech broom head is cheating. He’s not buying it.
“I equate it to the big-head golf club,” he explained. “You have a bigger sweet spot, you can miss it a little bit and it will go just as good.”
Recreational curlers in senior or women’s leagues would benefit the most from the new broom head because they lack the upper body strength of the elite curlers, said Taylor.
“I think we’re lazy by nature,” he said. “Why would we sweep harder if we don’t have to? Any sport, if you can make it easier whether it’s better shoes, a better racket, or the clap skates for speedskating, just by nature we like to be more efficient.”
Neither Glenn Howard nor Webster would go as far as calling the new brooms revolutionary, but they agree it’s a significant development in the sport.
“This is the one technology in curling in the last 10 to 15 years that can really change the sport and I honestly think it’s for the better,” Webster said. “It’s available to the masses now and it’s not just one team using it. I think you’re going to find a lot of club curlers pick it up.”
The Globe and Mail
Thursday January 13, 2011
Technological advancements in curling are about as rare as an eight-ender. There haven’t been any high-tech stones developed of late and no artificial ice has been created on which to play.
But thanks to some research done ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics, a new brush head is causing a stir at both the elite and grassroots level of the game. While it’s proved exceptionally effective, there are naysayers who charge that it ruins the ice and that it’s almost cheating.
In curling, this is about as close as it gets to controversy.
It all starts with Tom Jenkyn, a University of Western Ontario kinesiology and mechanical and materials engineering professor, who developed the Equalizer brush head. In 2007, he was hired by the Canadian Curling Association to look scientifically for more effective ways to sweep that could be passed on to the Canadian Olympic teams to provide an advantage.
“Our first discovery was that no one is actually melting the ice when they sweep,” he said. “That sort of changed all our thinking.”
For decades, perhaps centuries, curlers believed when they swept, they melted the ice ever so slightly and that allowed the rocks to travel farther and curl less.
So, then, what really goes on after the skip yells, “Hurry hard?”
“What actually happens is that infrared heat photons warm the ice,” Jenkyn said.
“Those photons are created and travel off in all directions as you sweep. We discovered that by putting a reflective device in the broom head, a lot more of those photons would be redirected back onto the ice, thereby increasing the heat.”
In plain English, that translates to meaning that a small strip of heat shield was put under the cover of the broom and that allows sweepers to better warm the ice without having to work so hard.
The discovery, which Jenkyn says was really almost a no-brainer, was top secret before the Olympics with only the Canadian teams getting the scoop.
While Cheryl Bernard’s rink put the new heads in play in Vancouver, Kevin Martin’s rink didn’t see much benefit and that, Jenkyn says, was because they were already so effective with their brooms.
But there was also some discussion that Martin opted out because the new heads were too effective, that they ripped the pebble off the ice, thereby harming playing conditions. That story has circulated throughout the curling community now that the heads have been available to knee-sliders from coast to coast. And it’s a charge disputed by the good professor.
“We never saw any evidence of pebble stripping,” Jenkyn said. “And we tested very carefully for that.”
BalancePlus, an equipment manufacturer in Barrie, Ont., purchased an exclusive licence on the patent and has been selling the Equalizer at a brisk pace. Scott Taylor, who runs the company, said he fended off complaints in the early days, pointing out that he changed the material on the broom’s outer surface to a much less abrasive cloth, reducing any chance that the Equalizer will harm the ice.
Still, one of his competitors called the new brooms “trickery” and charged that they “compromised the game” like the ultra-curved hockey stick or weighted boxing glove.
While most of Taylor’s sales so far have been to elite teams – Glenn Howard’s rink is one of many using them – he said that the biggest beneficiary of the new technology would be the average player, who shows up for his once-a-week game at the local club.
“In testing, we’ve seen women and seniors get the most benefit,” Taylor said.
“The seniors were increasing the temperature when they swept by as much as 75 per cent, women by 100. That’s a huge improvement. It’s really a game-changer.”
Taylor likened the technology to golf’s plastic spikes, which have gone from novelty to the norm, effectively making metal cleats non-existent. He predicted that in a few years, this technology might be in every broom.
“If you don’t have to sweep as hard and you can be more effective, what’s not to like?”
Perhaps the only thing better would be a broom that sweeps itself.
Special to The Globe and Mail
If Scotland should win a gold medal in curling at the Winter Games, at least one Canadian will be cheering loudly. The same could hold true if Norway wins. Or Sweden or Denmark or Russia. That Canadian is Lino Di Iorio, an inventor from Richmond Hill, Ont., who has helped almost every top curling nation in the world except one – his own.
For the past decade, Di Iorio has been building machines and creating methods for improving curling deliveries, sweeping techniques and consistency of rocks. With degrees in physics and math, he has worked out a variety of systems that have been snapped up by numerous countries looking to gain an edge on the rest of the world.
So successful is his work that the one country that hasn’t bought into it – Canada – is in danger of falling behind when it comes to research into the game. Di Iorio may end up doing more to knock Canada off its perch as the world’s top curling nation than any person actually throwing a rock or sweeping a broom.
It’s frustrating for Di Iorio because he tried several times to work with Canadian curling but was always turned down. And now there’s some insult added to the injury.
Two weeks ago, at two separate press conferences, the Canadian Curling Association and the Canadian Olympic Committee trumpeted great results into research done on sweeping and the delivery. The studies, one at the University of Western Ontario and another at the University of Alberta, were funded by the Own the Podium program and received great attention in the news media.
However, elsewhere in the world, the curling fraternity was snickering. Much of what was discovered in these studies was already common knowledge to those who had been working with Di Iorio. And while being cautious not to criticize the work without seeing all the details (full results of the Canadian studies won’t be revealed until after the Games), the inventor wasn’t too impressed.
“We knew they were conducting the studies and so we were interested,” Di Iorio said. “Once we took a look at the objectives and heard about the testing, we were skeptical of the methods.”
Di Iorio tried many times to get the CCA interested in his work. After showing his wares to several officials at one gathering, he was told that curling was a game of touch and feel, and there was no place for his scientific mumbo-jumbo. In 1997, at the CCA’s invitation, he set up a display at the first Olympic curling trials in Brandon, and not one CCA coach or official came to see it.
“I was hurt, sure,” Di Iorio admitted. “I knew what I had was a good thing and that I could help, but they just weren’t interested for whatever reason.”
Like a spurned lover, he moved on, and in 1999 he took his act across the pond, where the Scots jumped on it. They bought in immediately and made Di Iorio a technical consultant to work with the national teams.
“Lino and I got on great and he was not in demand in Canada, at least not then,” Mike Hay wrote in an e-mail. “I couldn’t figure that out, but we could see great potential, hence a great working relationship that is still strong today.”
Hay, a former world champion, was the national coach for the British team from 2000 to 2006 and is now the Olympic performance manager for winter sports for the British Olympic Association.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that a Scottish men’s rink has finished either first or second in four of the last five world championships and that David Murdoch is one of the favourites to win the gold in Vancouver.
Need another example? Di Iorio began working in Norway, and a year and a half after his machines and systems arrived, Pal Trulsen led the country to gold at the 2002 Winter Games.
Coincidence? Perhaps, but both nations praise Di Iorio.
Gerry Peckham, the CCA’s director of high performance, said there’s no ill will toward Di Iorio. He’s a fan.
“We need more people like Lino to challenge the commonly held perceptions in the game,” he said. “He’s a great thinker and a great contributor. The problem we had was back in the day, there was no money for research. We couldn’t afford to do any testing.”
Di Iorio warns that Canadian curling could get left behind if it doesn’t wake up.
“We have great curlers in this country and they know how to play, how to win,” he said. “But I’m not sure about the next generation the way they’re being taught. What happens when all these veterans retire? Will Canada be as good? I think we could be in for a rude awakening.”
Congratulations to our own Dale Matchett and his team of Ryan Werenich, Jeff Gorda and Shawn Kaufman on a great start to the season. They were the only team to beat team Gushue, winner of the 2009 Shorty Jenkins Spiel. Team Matchett lost the semi to Team Martin. They were the only team to force Team Martin to an extra end. Team Matchett also qualified at the OCT last weekend which was their first event of the season.
The number of curlers that use BalancePlus, according to a poll conducted on a popular curling website.
This prompts the question “Are you using BalancePlus?”
Craig Savill and Brent Laing will be appearing on Canada AM Thursday July 23 to discuss the Oxfam Trailwalk they are participating in starting July 24th.
2010 Canadian Curling Olympic Hopefuls Craig Savill and Brent Laing as they train for Oxfam Trailwalker Canada
Click HERE to visit Oxfam Trailwalk webpage.
Scott Taylor of BalancePlus Sliders, a dedicated supporter of Prostate Cancer Research, has asked all curlers, competitive and recreational, to remember that next month is M’ovember month.
As was done last year, tour players are being asked to grow a mustache to draw attention to this very worthy cause.
Prostate cancer is the number one cancer threat to Canadian men. It will afflict one in seven men during their lifetime. That means that in 2008 approximately 24,700 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Wow!!
M’ovember, the month of mustaches, is back in full force. Curling men are asked to not shave for the entire month, beginning tomorrow, to show support for the fight against prostate cancer. BalancePlus chief – and the coach of Team Glenn Howard – is Mr. Scott Taylor, and he is the prime mover behind this campaign, which you can read about in the October 29 posting at the SWEEP! magazine site.
You may recall our promotion of this thing last year. And yes, that’s them Howards (photo by Tae) after winning Brantford’s SunLife cashspiel last M’ovember. Wonderfully cheesy, and all for a great cause.
Kudos to Scott Taylor at BalancePlus, a guy who probably does more for the game in different ways than anyone. He’s once again promoting the M’ovember mustache-growing event among the top players in the game. It’s a way to draw attention to prostate cancer. I urge anyone who sees a curler with a mustache over the course of the next month to make a donation. Even $10 would go a long way. Another great move by Scott.
It may seem a bit odd, like a fish out of water, but this past summer Scott Taylor, coach of Glenn Howard’s rink, traveled to the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, to get some training.
Why would the coach of one of Canada’s top curling teams head over to China to see the Summer Olympics?
“I can see where some people might think it’s strange,” said Taylor, who helped guide Howard’s rink to the 2007 world championship. “But it was extremely worthwhile.”
Taylor, along with nine other coaches from teams that participate in winter sports, made the trek to China to get a first-hand look at what happens at the massive event known as the Olympics. From dealing with accreditation to security to food, Taylor and his fellow coaches had a whirlwind tour that will hopefully lessen the shock if they find themselves in the same place in February 2010 in Vancouver.
The idea for the trip came out of an Olympic conference held in Whistler where coaches with no previous Olympic exposure were given the opportunity to make it to Beijing. Taylor joined Jennifer Jones’ coach Janet Arnott in making the 13-hour flight to the Games. Both were coaches of rinks that have already made it as far as the Canadian Curling Trials. The group was there to take in as much as possible during their short stay, but not much of that included the actual sporting events.
“We went to the Canada-U.S. softball game and we were there for one inning, which was rained out,” said Taylor
Instead, the coaches were shown behind-the-scenes logistics, such as just how important accreditation is. That was emphasized by the necessity of handing over a passport in exchange for the much-coveted pass. And that was just the start of the security process.
“To get into most places, there was more security than getting on an airplane,” Taylor reported. “You couldn’t bring in any water and you had to go through metal detectors.”
They were also shown the athletes village, where Taylor said every need of every athlete seems capable of being met.
“The cafeteria seated 6,000,” he stated.
Also on the tour were visits to the media centre, the International Broadcast Centre, the Canadian Performance Centre where Summer Games coaches talked about preparing their athletes for competition, and Canada House, the home-away-from-home for Canadian athletes and their families.
Taylor called the experience and knowledge gained invaluable. Of course he’s hoping he can put it to first-hand use with Team Howard in Vancouver. But even if that doesn’t happen, he said he’d gladly share what he learned with the successful coach.
“You get a sense that everything takes longer than you think it will and you have to be prepared for that,” said Taylor, who also operates BalancePlus when he’s not busy coaching. “You go to the Brier and you think you’ve been to a big event, but it’s nothing compared to the Olympics. It’s hard to understand it if you haven’t been there.”
And that’s precisely the reason for the trip. This was a first-time endeavour for the Canadian Olympic Committee, but with overwhelming response from the Winter Games coaches who went to Beijing, planning is already underway for another such journey, this time by Summer Games coaches to the 2010 Games.
Taylor hopes that on that occasion, he might be the one giving advice.
Ten winter Olympic sports coaches including two Canadian curling coaches went to Beijing for 3 days during the Summer Olympics. Janet Arnott of Team Jennifer Jones and Scott Taylor from Team Glenn Howard. This is part of a Canadian Olympic Committee “secret plan” to familiarize potential 2010 team members and coaches with the whole Olympic hoo-hah.
Scott’s daily reports sent via email to the CCA and The Curling News blog
Beijing Day One – August 12 2008
13 hour flight over was good. The new Beijing airport is fantastic. Road travel was easy using the special lane for Olympic vehicles. The sun is up but obscured by haze. Hot and humid. Off to the Olympic Village this morning.What we have seen of Beijing is beautiful and clean. The people are very friendly. Many of them speak English, which makes it easy for us.
The part of Beijing we have seen is beautiful and clean. The people are very friendly. Many of them speak English which makes it easy for us.
Our first full day kept us busy. We spent most of the day at the Athletes Village after we traded in our passports for one of the difficult to get accreditations. Security is tighter than at some airports.
It boggles the mind to comprehend the time, effort, planning and organizing that must go into a facility that houses and feeds 10,000 athletes and 4,000 support staff. We had lunch in a “quaint” setting, the cafeteria that seats 6,000.
Our athletes are well looked after. The support staff have setup facilities to help them prepare and recover. It was great to see that many athletes have their country’s flag hanging from their balcony. The huge Canadian flag that has been smuggled into many closing events made it obvious where our athletes stay.
Our next stop was Canada Olympic House. It provides many services for the family and friends of our athletes. Fortunately for us we were considered friends and got the royal treatment. Looking forward to tomorrow.
Beijing Day Two – August 13, 2008
Jet-lag is decreasing. We shouldn’t fall asleep during the today’s session.Media day! We visited the International Broadcast Centre (IBC). We found out firsthand that you can’t get anywhere if your passport does not match the info they have on file. The half of the media centre that we saw is massive. It’s unbelievable how many media people are here. 22,000. It can be a challenge for the athletes to make time for the media but how would their story get told without them?With great anticipation we went to the Canada-USA women’s baseball game. You can’t get in if you have a bottle of water with you – just like boarding a plane. Canada took a 1-0 lead against the favoured USA in the bottom half of the first inning. Then the air cleared and the rain started. Watching the grounds crew cover the infield was entertaining. After we were soaked, raincoats were handed out to everyone. Our agenda did not allow us to wait. As we drove away on the bus the rain cover was being pulled off to resume play. My dream of seeing Olympic athletes in action has been fulfilled. Turns out the game was eventually called off, and our women’s team will have a double-header tomorrow.
Back at the Canadian Performance Centre we got to hear from Canadian head coaches about how they help their athletes prepare for their Olympic performance. We took a tour of the Centre and outfitting areas. We had a dinner meeting tonight to cap off our 13-hour day… and it’s still raining!
Beijing Day 3 – August 14, 2008
The weather is outstanding today. Clear dry air and blue skies. Jet-lag enabled me to get up early enough to watch the locals in the park doing their daily martial arts exercises including sword routines.
We had a breakfast meeting with members of the COC.
Then we travelled to BC Canada Place. They have an amazing Canadian exhibit that is open to everyone to improve their knowledge of Canada. One of the goals is to have them visit our country. The second floor is dedicated to creating business opportunities between Canadian and Chinese businesses.
We spent our lunch break walking around Tian’an Men Square and The Forbidden City. More Security, Armed Forces and Police than I have ever seen.
We spent the afternoon in Shinyi talking with the leaders of our Canoe and Rowing teams. It was great to hear their thoughts about being at a satellite venue and not staying in the Athletes’ Village.
We finished off the afternoon back in Beijing at the Canadian Performance Centre discussing what we learned and how the information can be used by all sports in future Olympics.
We hope to have the opportunity to mentor summer coaches at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
We said our goodbyes to our fellow coaches, excursion organizers and team leaders at a group dinner.
The trip was very worthwhile. Tomorrow is travel day. Everyone is looking forward to getting home but not the 13 hour long flight.
No one will ever forget; the GREAT people of China and how friendly they are, the beauty of Beijing and the surrounding area and last but certainly not least their first OLYMPIC experience.
This season we are supporting Prostate Cancer Research by selling 100 brushes with orange and blue tapered carbon fibre handles and the Prostate logo authorized by the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada. We will donate $100.00 from the sale of each brush. Prostate Cancer Research will receive $10,000.00 to help them find a cure for a disease that impacts all members of a family.
Congratulations Team Glenn Howard, World Curling Champions
The new ant-slider matches the Tapered Pink Ultra-Light Carbon Fibre brush that has been added to the BalancePlus Collection.
Congratulations to all curlers competing for Gold in Torino
BalancePlus thanks everyone who purchased an ultralight tapered handle.
$5.00 from each sale before January 31st, 2006 will be donated to the curlers that were in Torino.
Toronto – Call him the accidental curler. Or accidental curling coach, or retail owner/operator or shoe builder or inventor or..
You could go on and on when describing the many curling tangents into which Scott Taylor has moved himself. And it’s all rather remarkable considering he had never even thrown a rock as recently as 20 years ago.
Taylor is the guy behind Curling Depot, the retail curling store operating in Barrie, Ont. But he’s also a partner in BalancePlus, the company that produces the slider with the hole in the middle of it. And he’s managed to find time to become one of the most successful curling coaches in the land, leading teams to national and international championships.
“It all happened a bit by accident,” admitted Taylor. “I’d never really curled before we moved to Barrie in ’84. My wife had played a little in high school and we joined the club for social reasons. Then we began helping out with the novice clinics.”
It was while teaching one of those clinics that Taylor stumbled into what would become his first curling-related business.
“I was organizing a clinic and I went to our local curling store and asked the guy if they would be able to supply equipment like they had done for years before. He told me he was going out of business”
While initially disappointed at not having the utensils for his new curlers, Taylor was also intrigued, and made some calls and did some research to determine if there was a viable business in selling curling supplies.
Shortly thereafter, he started up Curling Depot, now a regular stop – both in person and on line – for those looking for high-quality curling equipment.
But Taylor’s growing passion for the game didn’t end there. He parlayed his initial success in teaching newcomers to the game into more serious coaching, helping out Ryan Werenich’s junior team, which eventually led all the way to the Canada Winter Games Gold.
“I spent five years with them and when they graduated from the junior ranks, I thought that was going to be it,” Taylor recalled. “But in their last year at the 1998 Ontario junior, we lost to John Morris and that summer, John called me up and asked if I’d be interested in coaching his team.”
That lasted another five years and again, took Taylor far and wide as he kept pace with the highly successful Morris team.
Taylor equated his coaching duties with both rinks as more of a general manager. He takes care of many of the tiresome off-ice duties that can distract a team from its play.
“Let’s face it,” admitted Taylor. “At the level a player like John is at, I’m not going to go out and tell him he should be throwing a specific shot.”
As well, with high-profile curling parents such as Ryan Werenich’s father Ed, and Morris’ father Earle, strategy was already well known.
But Taylor can do everything else from booking plane tickets to putting the team in touch with specialists such as nutritionists and sports psychologists.
It was early in his coaching career, that Taylor had a chance meeting with another individual who would push him even further into the curling business.
“One day, when I was coaching Ryan, I asked him if he wanted to go and throw rocks. He said he couldn’t because he and his dad were going to meet a guy who had a new idea about a slider. I ended up tagging along.”
The man in question was Lino Di Iorio, the founder of BalancePlus.
After showing his now famous slider, Di Iorio asked Taylor if he’d be willing to sell it in his store. Taylor answered positively, starting a long-lasting relationship that has grown to the point where the Barrie entrepreneur is now a partner in the company.
In fact, BalancePlus now operates out of a Barrie location that also includes Taylor’s Curling Depot store.
BalancePlus has expanded from producing just sliders to shoes and Taylor foresees further growth into other areas, providing the products are right for the brand.
“We still want to continue to improve the shoe, to keep fine-tuning it,” he stated. “But I can see us broadening the business in the future.”
Taylor has also joined up with Di Iorio in another area – that of high-performance development. Utilizing his coaching
experience, Taylor has helped Di Iorio refine his gaggle of high-tech training aids and the two now work with many of the world’s top teams.
“[Di Iorio’s] techniques have continued to evolve in a very, very positive way,” stated Taylor “I think his engineering background and the fact he didn’t start curling until later in life helped him look at the game from a different perspective.”
Taylor, who came up through the CCA’s training programs, and Di Iorio bounce ideas back and forth on how to improve all aspects of their program, which is geared towards elite players. They currently work with many curling federations from outside Canada as well as top Canadian teams such as reigning world champion Colleen Jones.
Coaching, retailing, designing, training and even playing – Scott Taylor is truly a curling renaissance man.
Ed Werenich of Toronto’s Avonlea Curling Club advanced to the Ontario men’s curling championships Monday after winning the challenge round east with a 7-5 victory over Chris Fulton. Werenich, who returned to competitive curling in September after a three-year retirement, has played at the national championship 10 times – the last being in 1997. He won the Canadian and world titles twice each, in 1983 and 1990.
Werenich’s rink also includes Neil Harrison, his 25-year-old son Ryan, and Lino DiIorio.
The Ontario men’s championships are in Owen Sound from Feb. 2 to 8. The winner will advance to the March 6-14 Nokia Brier in Saskatoon.
By Doug Maxwell
Lino DiIorio sits quietly at the big table in the lounge of the Donalda Club in Toronto. It’s mid-afternoon, and he has already spent a full morning on the ice with some of Scotland’s best curlers. At lunch, he and some of the Scots, plus Ed Werenich, Neil Harrison, and a visiting scribe talk curling, swap stories and think aloud about the game. Lino signs the tab and wonders about the incoming team from Sweden, led be Elisabet Gustafson, four-time world champion and the Tre Kronor’s Olympic-bound women’s squad. Did they get into their hotel OK, and when are they expected to arrive at the club? Three Norwegian teams; a junior foursome, plus Olympians Dordi Nordby and Paal Trulsen, have also been put through their paces by Lino in the morning and are now off on a shopping spree.
This is not exactly a curling clinic for top teams. It is a chance for the Euro teams to do some advanced work with Lino, before heading to Ottawa and the big Cowan Wright Beauchamp bonspiel in Ottawa.
All these curlers are Lino believers. Each of their countries has bought most, if not all, of Lino’s patented curling products, software and innovations. Most of them sport his readily-recognized BalancePlus footwear (the slider with the hole in the sole). These two days in Toronto offer the teams a chance to work with Di Iorio, engage in strategy sessions with Werenich and Harrison, and enjoy the hospitality offered by Lino and his wife Lynne.
He’s curled for just seven years
How did a 50-something, seven-year curler get to this point? Good question.
“got hooked on curling from watching it on TV”, he says, “and decided I would try it at our neighbourhood club in Richmond Hill. So that summer I recruited three friends who would join the club with me, and entered us in the club’s opening bonspiel.” Since none of them had ever curled before, it was easy to pick a skip: “you organized this thing,” he was told “you’re the skip!” It would be nice to report that they won the ‘spiel, but this is not a fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after. Fact is, they failed to win a game. But more importantly, they became hooked on curling. And none more so than Lino.
He soon turned his mathematical mind and inventive genius to the game. Not for him the accepted wisdom of the past: he asked questions, suggested ideas, sketched out theories – all based on the concepts taught him during his undergraduate days at the University of Waterloo, where he graduated in Mathematics and Physics. He also had a background in manufacturing (he once built himself a guitar) and problem solving that stood him in good stead when it came time to translate ideas into reality.
One of his first developments was the BalancePlus® curing slider (the slider with the hole in the sole). It’s the slider that Werenich credits for an improvement in his (formerly) wobbly delivery. Today it is accepted as one of the “must have” items in a curler’s bag. Since then Lino has added to his arsenal of curling aids. He developed a rock throwing machine that helps match curling stones. He came up with a variation of a radar gun that measures the rate of a curler’s delivery deceleration, an important element in trying to develop a consistent delivery for all four members of a team. His TV camera, linked to a computer, becomes a key component in the drive for consistency.
Europeans became converts
All of these high-tech areas he has sole to curling bodies in Scotland, Sweden and Norway. All of them are using Lino’s ideas to help develop and improve the elite squads they will send to face Canada in Salt Lake City come February. More than that, it is Lino’s way of helping make curling even better than it was when he began to throw stones. Where Canadian teams use the experience gained in a plethora of high pressure cashspiels, the smaller nations must, perforce, depend on every technical nuance they can find to hone their skills. “We only have about 15sheets of ice in Norway,” explains Paal Trulsen, “and about 500 curlers all told, so we need the kind of help that Lino can provide.”
“The Scottish Institute of Sport has been enormously helpful to us,” says Hew Chalmers, the British Olympic Association curling team manager, who with National Coach Mike Hay, helps plot the readiness of Scotland’s Olympic teams, skipped by Hammy McMillan and Rhona Martin.
“It’s not only the S.I.S. that helps us,” says Chalmers, “but also the British Curling Association (under Bob Kelly) and the U.K. Institute of Sport. We’ve received money from the national sports lottery – more than a million Canadian dollars – which has been invested in a wide-ranging four-year development program.
“There’s the ‘Curling’s Cool’ program for the grass roots, the school kids. Eight regional development officers have been hired to help promote the game all across Scotland. And there’s no stinting of money at the top level either. Elite players, such as members of Hammy’s team, can access up to $12,000 (Cdn) each to help out. It means they can work full time on their game over the four months prior to the Games. Hammy, for example, has been able to hire someone to take over his general manager’s job at the (family) hotel in Stranraer.”.
Inside the broom?
“You were inside (the broom)” shouts Hammy to lead Peter Loudon. But Lino’s TV analysis, available immediately, says otherwise. There then follows a lengthy team discussion about matching deliveries to skip’s perception of the release, and the assembled curlers quickly agree that Hammy’s (left-eye dominant) eyesight has tricked him into believing Loudon’s effort was inside the stick, a perception that could affect a sweeping call.
Later that afternoon, Ed Werenich and Neil Harrison talked strategy with different teams, answering queries with reminiscences from their many experiences at the Brier, the Worlds and other big events.
Will it all pay off in Ogden? Perhaps. More importantly, the curlers believe it will definitely pay off in curling developments back home, an important element to all of them.
In the case of Elisabet Gustafson, it paid off quickly. In Ottawa, the following week, the Swedish women took home the $9,000 top money in the women’s division of the Cowan Wright Beauchamp.
By Bob Garvin
Is it just the Canadian way?
Lino Di Iorio is the Richmond Hill inventor of several curling innovations, such as the BalancePlus slider. Di Iorio has created technical teaching aids for delivery and sweeping that have been accepted and are in full use throughout Europe. Indeed, Scottish and Norwegian federations have purchased full sets of the equipment for use back home.
A new wrinkle this year is the addition of strategy seminars headed up by hall-of-famers Eddie Werenich and Neil Harrison. The Wrench may not be throwing ‘em in anger anymore, but he’s still widely recognized as a top strategist.
In the first week of November, Di Iorio, along with partner Scott Taylor (John Morris’ coach) and their colleagues hosted several top European teams for instruction. A total of 14 international teams have taken part so far this year, including such luminaries as 4-time world champion Elisabet Gustafson of Sweden, former world champ Hammy McMillan of Scotland and current Norwegian champion teams of Pal Trulsen (men) and Dordi Nordby (women).
Yet, with the exception of two Ontario-based ladies teams skipped by Colleen Madonia and Deb Rauter (yes, she is Vic’s wife), Canada’s curlers have reacted with a collective shrug.
Is this the same syndrome that once afflicted Canada’s other favourite sport, hockey?
It’s not so long ago that Canadians poo-poohed hockey training methods used in other parts of the world. Then, in 1972, we got the shock of our hockey lives then the hated Russians same with a Paul Henderson miracle of defeating our heroes in the infamous Summit Series. Hockey hasn’t been the same since.
Did we learn anything, or are we destined to repeat the same lack of action in the last sport in which Canadians can still lay claim to world dominance?
BalancePlus, renowned for its curling shoes and sliders, is proud to announce the establishment of Curling’s first International Technical Training and Research and Development Centre. The centre, located in Toronto, will offer individual and team training sessions commencing in early October 2001. It will house the latest teaching equipment and technology developed by Lino Di Iorio, founder of BalancePlus. The Toronto facility will bring to Canada what BalancePlus has been providing in Europe during the past three years. The other important aspect of the game, strategy, will compliment the technical side. Two of the World’s best curling strategists, Eddie “The Wrench” Werenich, and Neil Harrison will conduct these sessions. Contact BalancePlus to book your session.
by Bob Weeks
Sitting between Lino Di Iorio, the engineer who brought curling the BalancePlus Slider and other revolutionary game-improvement devices, and Ed Werenich, the two-time World Champion who seems to know exactly what shot to play at exactly the right time, you can’t help but be impressed.
The two share a love of the roaring game, but the affection comes from different areas.
In fact, when it comes to curling, these two guys are almost polar opposites.
Di Iorio thinks in theoretical terms, analyzing statistics and researching data. Werenich, on the other hand, just kind of senses what’s right. That works, because it worked last time.
And now the two have a common goal: they want to see the game improve, particularly in the way people learn to play it.
Thanks to an idea the two came up with, that’s just what’s going to happen. Marrying the technical brilliance of Di Iorio with the practical experience of Werenich, the two have created a new training and development centre, to help top teams improve as well as advance the methods behind training.
“We’re very excited about it,” gushed Di Iorio. “We think it will bring the best of both worlds together under one roof.”
The idea behind the program will be to allow top teams to come to the centre, which will be housed at a Toronto curling club. Di Iorio and his associate Scott Taylor will put the teams through a battery of tests, designed to improve their slides, sweeping and team performance. Then Werenich, along with another legend, Neil Harrison, will provide extensive strategy sessions.
While the formal details of the school haven’t even been finalized, several European teams have already booked space for the fall.
As well as the player training, Di Iorio has hired two scientists who are designing tests for his team to work on, in the hopes that it will provide scientific evidence of not only how things function in curling, but how to improve them.
As an example, Di Iorio points to a broom that’s been developed in Scotland which his group will use to analyze sweeping.
“It’s a regular Hammer broom, but it has sensors in it that can tell how much pressure is being applied, how fast the acceleration is and so on,” he says. “There’s so much about sweeping that we don’t know and this should help.”
For example, some early research has showed that sweeping a stone for the first half of its trip down a sheet of ice may have no effect on the rock’s path. While that may be great news for front ends everywhere, Di Iorio wants to prove – or disprove – such theories for the betterment of curling.
To do such research, the Toronto curler with the engineering background, has developed a number of tools, such as a machine that will throw eight rocks at once, with the same force and same amount of turn, an electronic split timer to gauge the speed of a player’s delivery, and a video system to detect flaws in deliveries.
All of this stems from Di Iorio belief that the lack of hard data is one of the biggest problems with the development of the game. In fact, he states, it’s hard to imagine any other sport being as archaic as curling is when it comes to this type of research.
“Everything we’re doing is based on the fact that there’s just too many unanswered questions,” he states.
Di Iorio isn’t certain his ideas about curling are going to work, but he does believe in testing them to find out, which is more, he says, than what’s currently being done.
Werenich is also incredulous about the strategy side of what’s being taught and of how coaches are preparing their teams.
“Some of the stuff I’ve seen is unbelievable,” he says. “You just wonder where these people are getting their information”
He relates several stories of coaching by supposedly well-trained people that have left him mind-boggled. The same can be said for the strategies employed by many top-coached teams that have gone through Canadian Curling Association high performance training camps.
Werenich makes no bones about his dislike for the CCA methods and what that organization has offered for training. Di Iorio is also negative, although perhaps a little more diplomatic in offering his assessment.
To date, the CCA has shown little interest in Di Iorio’s work
by Bob Garvin
Lino Di Iorio is not your average curler. If anything, he’s more passionate than most. And he’s using that passion, and his natural inclination towards research and development, to enhance our sport.
He’s the man behind, for example, the enormously popular BalancePlus slider. Di Iorio also created a rock throwing machine a few years back that tosses 8 stones at the same time. And he’s created a unique video system for analyzing and (hopefully) resolving delivery faults.
What is it about his systems that are unique? Space limitations prevent us from detailing it here, especially since we don’t really understand the technical aspects of it anyway.
But top curlers from around the world, including four-time World Champion Elisabet Gustafson and Olympic gold medalist Patrick Hurlimann, have trained with Di Iorio and will be back in 2001 for more. Scotland’s national program has hired him to help with their entire development program (based on this year’s results we’d say there’s definite work needed there).
Beginning this fall, BalancePlus will open Canada’s first International Technical Training and Research & Development Centre at a club in Toronto. In addition to the training and on-ice practice, strategy seminars will be presented, headed up by hall-of-famers Ed Werenich and Neil Harrison. Already teams from Norway, Sweden and Scotland have booked time for October. Who wouldn’t want to see how the Wrench explains strategy to European curlers?
If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your game, just contact BalancePlus at 1-800-715-1715 or 705-725-0080 or check out their website.