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90-year-old Edmonton curler an inspiration

Whatever your age, keeping yourself occupied is a good idea, says 90-year-old Edmonton curler.
Winning much more often than not, 90-year-old Cliff Holm is an inspiration to his fellow curlers at the Ellerslie Curling Club. Photo: CTV Edmonton

Cliff Holm is tired.

“I didn’t get to sleep until about 3 a.m. I was watching Olympic curling,” he said.

Curling has been a big part of Holm’s life, which now stretches 90 years.

“I started curling when I was about 13 or 14 in my home town of Norquay, Saskatchewan (north of Yorkton)," he said. “I got invited to play in a bonspiel.”

Holm took jobs building and repairing grain elevators and then, later, on an oil rig which took him out of town.

“I didn’t have time to curl and I never did again until 1975 when my brother invited me. We formed a team and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Despite his limited experience, the fledgling team named Holm as the skip.

“I laughed and said let’s go for it,” said Holm, who has been skipping his rinks ever since.

“I told my teammates then, and I’ve told teammates every year since, that I wanted to win and that we were going to have fun.”

They’ve been doing both.

“We’ve won a few bonspiels; a few leagues. I win more than I lose," said Holm of his current team, which curls three times a week out of the Ellerslie Curling Club. The nonagenarian says he uses a curling stick to propel the rocks so he doesn't have to get on his hands and knees in the hack.

“Last year we came in second - one win away from winning the trophy and, in another league, we were two games short of winning.

“This year we’re having a little more trouble, but we still go out expecting to win. It’s more fun when you are winning.”

For the past four years, Holm's teammates have been Jay Pritchard, Ed Schultz and Ray Grapentine.

“Cliff is a really good curler,” said Pritchard, 74. “Considering he’s 90 makes that more remarkable. His strategy is particularly amazing. He’s a student of the game: he can make draws, but given his choice, he'll go for the takeout. He lets it rip."

Holm, who had a knee replacement last July to go along with the hip replacement he had in 2011, says it’s a little strange he loves curling as much as he does.

“I’ve always been an adrenalin junkie, anything that has a throttle in it, whether it was cars--two friends and myself once put together a car to race on a dirt track--or dirt biking and snowmobiling where we would see how high up a mountain we could go before having to turn around," he said.

He also liked racing jet boats. Once, in 1978, Holm was even captain of a three-man crew that won a 700-mile world championship against teams from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Germany and Great Britain.

Holm says the best part of that four-leg victory, which started in Grande Cache, was that he beat former Edmonton Oiler owner Peter Pocklington.

“Peter thought he could buy the race. He built a boat that had two engines in it that each cost $20,000. Glen Sather was on his crew. Sather went through the wrong part of the river and Peter threw him out of the boat.”

Pritchard says the first time he met Holm people told him to be careful.

“They said he was a competitive maniac and an old crank. But that hasn’t been true. He’s got a tremendous sense of humour.

“I think he's caused me to be a better curler and I've caused him to be a happier person," Pritchard told CTV News while it was doing a profile on Holm.

“He jokes and teases more now than he ever did. It makes for a great time.”

Holm said curling, which is something people of all ages can enjoy, keeps him busy.

“I’m a firm believer that you have to keep yourself occupied.”

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