Curler comes so close to winning a car

Though most of the attention at last month’s Women’s World Curling Championships in Vernon was lavished on the Canadian rink skipped by Jennifer Jones – and rightfully so, after the foursome gave Canada its second straight world title – a Surrey curler came oh-so-close to his own gold-medal moment.

Peace Arch Curling Club’s (PACC) Darrell Zbeetnoff was the winner of the event’s Closest to the Button competition, and came within 4.2 cm of winning a 2008 Ford Edge – the grand prize for the contestant who was able to land the rock right on the button.

The final round of the contest was staged during the fifth-end break during the tournament’s first Canada-Japan game, with nearly 3,000 spectators filling the seats at the Vernon Multiplex.

Making the task even more difficult for Zbeetnoff, a veteran curler, was the fact that he wasn’t given any time to warm up, or test the ice.

“There was no practice, no way to know the speed of the curl – no nothing,” he said. “But I was closest to the button in the preliminary round, so I got to go last (in the final), which really helped because I at least got to watch (the others), and see the speed a little bit.”

In advance of the championships, tournament organizers invited all curling clubs from across the province to send a contestant to Vernon.

Though the PACC didn’t have time to hold an internal competition, Zbeetnoff was heading to watch the event anyway, so club members suggested he give it a shot.

“I guess I was sort of a last resort,” he cracked.

Fourteen competitors took part in a prelim round in nearby Armstrong, and six advanced to Vernon for semifinals before three finalists were named.

Though Zbeetnoff was thrilled with his shot, he insists he’d be hard-pressed to duplicate it.

“You wouldn’t get that shot every time – I don’t think (Canadian men’s champ) Kevin Martin would get that every time,” he said.

“But the (tournament) was very exciting, and it was really nice to see Canada win it.”

And though he didn’t win the grand prize, Zbeetnoff did come away with a 27-inch LCD TV for finishing first.

“Not a bad consolation prize,” he said.

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