B.C. couple wants to put Portugal on curling map

A Portuguese curling couple inside a rink in Nanaimo, B.C., is not something you hear every day. But if April Gale-Seixeiro and her husband Steve Seixeiro have it their way, they’re going to put the soccer-crazed nation on the curling map.

‘To get to help a new country build their program, how wonderful is that?’ says April Gale-Seixeiro

Steve Seixiero, left, and his wife, April Gale-Seixeiro, want curling to have a future in Portugal. (Submitted by Steve Seixiero)

Standing on the pebbled ice inside a Nanaimo curling club, April Gale-Seixeiro was marvelling at her husband's newly minted Portuguese curling jacket.

"There's Steve in this beautiful Portugal jacket and I'm thinking this is not where I expected my life to lead me but holy crap this is incredible," April told CBC Sports.

Steve Seixiero, of Portuguese descent and a hockey-loving Canadian, was also in awe of his curling jacket and how he got to this point. 

"I was thinking the jackets look pretty sweet," he said. "They looked better than I anticipated because I helped design them."

A Portuguese curling couple inside a rink in Nanaimo, B.C., is not something you hear every day. But if these two have it their way, they're going to put the soccer-crazed nation on the curling map. 

"They've been trying to build their winter programs over the last few years," Steve said. "There's no curling rink in —Portugal  or curlers."

April and Steve, who are both nearly 50, want to change that. 

It's their hope to qualify Portugal for the mixed doubles world championship next spring. But how they both got to this point is rather remarkable. 

"I fell in love with curling in Grade 8 on a school team in Thunder Bay," April said.

Gale-Seixeiro grew up in northern Ontario with curling in her blood. (Submitted by Steve Seixiero)

Roaring game

Growing up in northern Ontario the roaring game was in her blood. Steve's experience couldn't have been more different.

"I had actually never heard of curling before. I was always a hockey fan. I had never watched curling on TV. I never saw it until April started it," he said.

His parents immigrated to Canada in the late-1960s — a Portuguese family that loved soccer and was completely unaware of curling's existence.

Steve and April met during frosh week while studying at the University of Waterloo. They married shortly after graduating. Life took them both to Seattle in 1995 — Steve got a job at Microsoft. 

When they first arrived April searched desperately for a curling club in the American city. 

"There was another Canadian who always wanted to curl. We looked in the Yellow Pages for a curling rink. We thought there would be three or four clubs," April said. "They didn't have curling clubs in the Yellow Pages."

They eventually found a club. April joined a league and immediately immersed herself in the Seattle curling scene and Steve also became interested. 

"The first time I tried curling I was adamant it wasn't for me. I was a hockey player," he said. "I thought it was just a social game. There was a lot of drinking afterwards."

Steve and April have no qualms about competing against each other. (Submitted by Steve Seixiero)

Competitive couple

Competitive to a fault, Steve kept trying and eventually got quite good at the game. April and Steve played on the same team, mixed doubles and mixed teams, before realizing they enjoyed playing against each other a lot more.

They'd eventually move back to Canada, settling in Nanaimo in 2017. That's when they noticed a post on Facebook from a Portugal Curling group account. 

"They put out a message saying they were going to start their own curling program and get people from Portugal to curl," Steve said. "They kept talking about it as if they were going to do their own homegrown thing."

There isn't a single curling rink in all of Portugal but there are plans to one day build one in Lisbon.

The organizers never did end up attracting any homegrown Portuguese curlers. So they then put out a call to any curlers around the world who have Portuguese citizenship. Steve and April jumped at the opportunity. 

"We reached out to them and I didn't hear back from them for maybe a couple weeks," Steve said. "Then they wanted to talk to me. We did a skype call with the president of their winter federation."

It turned out to be a job interview Steve and April weren't fully prepared for in Portuguese, and by the end of the call they were almost a lock for being Portugal's mixed doubles team. 

And the curing couple wasn't about to say no. 

"To get to help a new country and one that's so near and dear to both of us help them build their program, how wonderful is that?" April said. 

Steve, who is now a curling photographer, shares his wife's sentiments.

"The sport is more than a nation. It's a community. Having more people join that community is a good thing. It helps with diversity. It helps with interest and keeps that sport alive."

Seixiero took photographs at the 2018 men’s world curling championship in Las Vegas. (Submitted by Richard Gray )

Familiar names

It wasn't long after the original skype call with the president of the federation that April and Steve found themselves on an official selection call with Portugal's curling federation — and another group of curlers. 

Not long into the call Steve noticed the names of one of the curlers on the call. 

"I saw this name and recognized it as one of the families we would hang out with as kids," Steve said. "Joe Ribau — I sent a message to him asking if there was any relation to the Ribau family in Oakville."

As it turns out, Steve and Joe grew up two houses apart from each other on a street in Oakville. Joe's mother babysat Steve. And now they were on a call some four decades later preparing to represent Portugal in curling. 

Joe's three children will form the other part of this mixed Portuguese curling team.

"In Portuguese culture family is very important," April said. "So this seems all very fitting."

To that end, April is in the final stages of securing her Portuguese citizenship so that she can compete with her husband at next year's mixed doubles qualifier. 

"We're going to train our hearts out - off the ice too," she said. "I'm not Portuguese in my blood but I'm Portuguese in my heart."

They're being realistic about their goals — they'd need a top-four finish at the international event next December to advance to the world championship.

"Competing for Portugal was the first goal," Steve said. "I think a long-term goal is to have homegrown curlers compete for the country."


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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