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From the Green Path to the curling rink

International student Christopher Bai has discovered a passion for a most Canadian pastime. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Christopher Bai’s first experience with curling was even more rustic than what we’re used to in Canada.

“I was travelling in Europe with my family. These people were playing with a kind of iron plate on frozen ponds,” he says. “That was my first impression of the game.”

Today, Bai is hooked, after participating in a U of T Scarborough curling program with staff members at the Tam Heather Curling & Tennis Club this winter. A graduate of the Green Path program, he is now finishing his first year in Life Sciences.

“In Shanghai, where I’m from, it doesn’t snow a lot,” says Bai. In fact, in all of China, there are only 16 curling sheets. Compare that to Scarborough, where there are eight sheets at Tam Heather alone, and more than 1,500 clubs across Canada.

Still, curling’s popularity is growing steadily in China, which last year hosted the world men’s championships. “It is getting more attention on television,” Bai says.

Curling wasn’t Bai’s first sport at UTSC – he learned tennis in the valley through Green Path, and also swims and plays badminton – but when he heard about lessons for students, he jumped at the chance.

“I thought it would be fun to experience something so Canadian,” he says. “And I was excited to find out it was so close to campus.”

In the end, most participants were staff and faculty members, most of whom, like Bai, were completely new to the sport.

“The first thing you learn is safety,” he says. “We all struggled on the ice trying to find our balance.”

It wasn’t long before he and his teammates figured out how to stay up, sweep and control the rocks.

“The game is really interesting because it’s full of strategy and teamwork,” says Bai.

He fell for winter sports on a trip to Montreal in 2013. His family took him to a junior hockey game, where a puck landed near his feet. That puck has travelled with him ever since.

“When it was time to choose a university, I didn’t think about any other countries,” he says. “I thought about McGill, but then I saw the Green Path program.”

Bai is confident he made the right decision to come to UTSC, and says he’s enjoyed the transition

“Being away from your family and friends, you need to develop new relationships, to balance life, work and studies,” he says. “It makes you push yourself harder to cultivate friendships and motivate yourself.”

 




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