MOOSE JAW, Sask. - Emma Logan is inspired by her five-time Canadian champion aunt – and Nova Scotia teammate - Mary-Anne Arsenault.
It’s safe to say the feeling is mutual.
"It's hard to think that a 22-year-old can be your inspiration, but she really is inspiring in all aspects of life,” Arsenault told reporters in Moose Jaw, Sask., ahead of the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The lead for the Maritime province is an inspiration to Arsenault and many others in the curling world this week as she becomes what is believed to be the first deaf player to compete at the national championship.
The Halifax native lost her hearing when she was just 13-months-old after getting diagnosed with meningitis and now uses cochlear implants to help with her disability.
Like most sports, communication in curling is a major factor when it comes to finding success. All four players need to work together and understand what the plan is for every shot. If communication is lost, making a bonspiel like the Scotties is out of the question.
Winding back to the beginning of this season, Team Arsenault didn’t have a specific game plan for communicating with Logan during games.
“We just went out as normal and communicated like any other team would. We realized that a lot of communication was being missed on my end,” explained Logan. “I wouldn't hear a line call or the communication with the other sweepers.”
Logan admitted there were moments where she questioned if she could make it with the elite-level curlers after some struggles in the early going.
"This year being among a team of very experienced players, that's when I started to realize it requires a lot of work. There were definitely times this season where I felt quite low and I question whether I would be able to make it to this stage in times when we were struggling,” said Logan. “We kept on pushing and persevering."
That’s when this foursome decided to get creative.
At first, Team Arsenault experimented with the skip wearing a Bluetooth microphone that connected to Logan’s earpiece. This was better, but Logan found she still couldn’t hear what her sweeping partner was saying.
The solution was to put the mic on second Jenn Baxter and have Arsenault wear a special glove with a green sticker on one side and a pink sticker on the other to inform Logan whether she should be sweeping or not.
“It just opened my eyes to the fact that I was missing everything the other sweeper was saying," explained Logan.
The change was made in time for Nova Scotia provincials where they would beat six-time Scotties champion Colleen Jones (Arsenault’s former teammate) to punch their ticket to the Canadian championship in Moose Jaw. This is the 14th appearance for Arsenault and the very first for her niece, Logan.
With focusing so much time on communication, it’s no surprise that facet has become one of their strengths as a team.
"We've worked so hard on it because of the disability that I think we probably communicate better than other teams,” said Arsenault.
But, being on the same page with her teammates is not the only reason why Logan has reached the upper echelon of curling and excelled in other aspects of life.
The business graduate out of St. Francis Xavier University recently launched an initiative called Hearing for All which helps provide hearing aids to people living in developing countries.
"It's her attitude that gets her ahead. She was second in her class at all of St. FX last year in her GPA. She's incredibly smart, talented obviously, and so hard working. She doesn't let her disability stop her. I think attitude is everything in life and in sport. She always sees the positive side," said Arsenault, who has known Logan her entire life after being in the delivery room during her birth.
Logan said she has never let her disability stop her from pursuing her dreams.
"My positive attitude is definitely who I am, and I grew up with a hearing loss so I'm used to facing an extra little challenge, but it hasn't stopped me from pursing my dreams,” she said. “It's just an extra little challenge and an extra barrier to overcome. It just makes a little sweeter when it works."
Playing with her aunt at the national championship has been especially sweet for the 22-year-old as not only are they family, but Logan looked up to Arsenault during her heyday winning multiple Scotties titles.
"As a curler she has been an inspiration of mine growing up. Watching her success, competing at this level. From the day I started curling it was my dream to make it to the Scotties and the fact that it is happening, the fact that I'm doing it with her makes it so much more special," said Logan.
Logan said she hopes her story inspires others in similar positions to never give up and keep pushing forward.
"I hope that they don't let it hold them back because certainly that crossed my mind and now I'm so happy that I pushed through because the reward is so great in the end,” she said. “Everybody should be here. It is a sport that has worked so hard to be accessible for so many and I think nothing should stop someone."
Nova Scotia kicks off their 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Saturday afternoon against Kerry Galusha and Team Northwest Territories.