By Steve Guntli
Birch Bay resident Lyle Sieg has been curling for more than 40 years. All the time and effort he’s put into the sport finally paid off when he and his team took home the gold in the World Senior Curling Championships held from April 18 to April 25 in Sochi, Russia.
Sieg represented the U.S. men’s team in the 50 and older competition. His team beat out 23 teams from around the world to walk away with the championship. It’s the first time a U.S. seniors team has won the World Senior Curling Championship since 2010.
For the uninitiated, curling is an ice sport that involves two teams of five sliding a large granite puck, called a rock, down a 120-foot lane towards a target circle, similar to shuffleboard. Hurlers aim and slide the rock, while two sweepers skate ahead, sweeping down the ice with brooms to reduce friction and guide the rock. Sieg acts as the “skip” for his team, meaning he calls the shots and plans the strategy.
The game has been popular in northern countries for years, and was officially added as a Winter Olympics sport in 1998.
“We call it chess on ice,” he said. “There’s a lot of strategy to the game, a lot of statistics that you use to guide your calls.”
Sieg went on to play in high school, where his team won the national championship in Vancouver. In his 20s, he represented the Yukon Territories at the Brier, the Canadian Curling Association’s championship game.
In 1997, Sieg and his wife, Pam, moved to the U.S., first to San Francisco and then to Seattle in 2010. Sieg has played with the Seattle Granite Curling Club since 2011. The couple moved to Birch Bay in October 2014, but that hasn’t stopped Sieg from commuting to Seattle at least once a week to practice. Sieg works one day a week in Seattle as a civil engineer, and schedules his practice sessions around his work schedule.
The Seattle Granite Curling Club has been playing for more than 40 years, but has never won a world title. Club members decided to set their sights high this season.
“This year our goal was getting to the world championship, so we played over 100 competitive games together this year,” he said. “That’s as much as most professional teams play. We were rewarded for our effort.”
Of those 100 games, the team won 84. They went on to have a perfect 5–0 record at the state level, a perfect 7–0 record at the national level and a perfect 10–0 record at the World Championship.
“We had a pretty good season,” Sieg said.
The biggest challenge, Sieg said, was figuring out how to beat Canada. The World Senior Curling Championships have been held since 2002, and Canada has taken home the gold nine times in 13 years. The U.S. team ultimately beat the Canadians in the final game with a score of 9–4.
“We did about as well as we could this season,” Sieg said. “I’m so proud of my team and everything they accomplished, and so grateful for all the support we got from back home.”
Sieg said the club has already decided they’re going back next year to defend their title.
“We love the game. We play it for fun,” he said. We didn’t make any money off of this, we just got a gold medal and a nice trip.”