Road To The Olympic Games

Michelle Englot buoyed by son's support at Scotties

For the last 26 years, Derek Schneider says his mother, Manitoba skip Michelle Englot, has been his rock. But this week at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the roles have reversed.

Derek Schneider cheering on Manitoba skip's run to the final

Derek Schneider, left, has been in his mother Michelle Englot's corner all week at the Scotties. (Derek Schneider)

ST. CATHARINES, ONT. — For the last 26 years, Derek Schneider says his mother, Michelle Englot, has been his rock. But this week at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the roles have reversed.

"It's about her now," Schneider said. "I need to pay her back for all of this and let her know how much she did for me."

It seems to be working so far. In a curling career spanning three decades — mostly representing Saskatchewan — Englot has never reached a Scotties final. This year, she's skipped her newly-formed Manitoba rink into the championship game. 

Schneider has been at the Meridian Centre for every single shot this week, leading a chorus of cheers, pacing around the ice and trying to keep his mom focused and calm.

"I just have to support her because she has supported me through my sports or any adversity that I've gone through in my life," Schneider said. "She's the most supportive mom I could ever ask for."

None of this has been lost on Englot. "He just makes me feel like I can make any shot," she said. "He's been such a great support system for me throughout my whole curling career."

The only thing better for Englot this week would be if her other son, Bret, could have attended the tournament. He's back in their home city of Regina coaching a hockey team in the playoffs.

"Right from when they were little kids, both my boys have loved curling," she said.

It all started in Saskatchewan

Englot has been at the Scotties seven times before, all of them with Saskatchewan. She still lives in Regina but travels to Manitoba to compete with the rest of her team.

Some of her best appearances at the tournament came early on in her career, when her sons weren't even around.

"I was pregnant with Derek in 1990 and I was pregnant with Bret in 1989," Englot said.

Manitoba's Michelle Englot beats Ontario's Rachel Homan 9-8. 1:41

In both of those tournaments Englot had winning records with her sons along for each slide. Now, she's wearing the bison emblem on her back and skipping Manitoba.

"It's a little weird," laughed Englot. "But it's been such an amazing year."

Schneider, who also lives in Regina, says he and his mom shared a comical moment earlier in the week when looking over the schedule.

"We were looking at the draw and she was like, 'Why do we play Quebec twice?'" said Schneider. "I was like, 'What schedule are you looking at?' She was looking at Saskatchewan's."

"I'm still born and raised in Saskatchewan and I'll always be a Saskatchewan girl," Englot said.

What winning a Scotties would mean

At 53 years old, Englot would be the oldest skip to win the Scotties. Alberta's Hazel Jamison was a couple of months older than Englot when she won the Canadian Ladies Curling Association Championship in 1968.

"It would be incredible," said Englot. "I've put a lot of time into this. I'd be pretty proud of that."

As for Derek, he gets goosebumps thinking about tonight's championship.

"I can't even give you a word how much this would mean to me. I want it for them so bad."

He'll once again be in the crowd Sunday night in the same Manitoba hoodie that's yet to be washed, doing everything he can to let Englot know he's here for her.

"I do get pretty rowdy," he said. "I have to yell. I'm starting to lose my voice."

And for as noisy as the arena can get, Englot is looking forward to hearing her son cheer for one final time this week.  

"I just hear the yells from him because his voice is pretty distinctive," she said.

"I try to block the crowd out as much as possible because if I didn't I'd be in trouble. But I still hear him."

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