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Special Olympian comes back from stroke to win national curling bronze at games

Matthew Basso had to learn whole new delivery after losing mobility in right side
The team with their bronze medal at the 2024 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Calgary. Photo submitted by Cheryl Clay.

The Campbell River Rocks curling team managed to win bronze in the 2024 Special Olympics Canada Winters Games in Calgary with one of the curlers making a comeback after suffering a stroke last year.

Matthew Basso suffered from a stroke on Jan. 5, 2023. Basso plays as the team’s third (the team member who delivers the second-to-last pair of a team’s rock in an end, they are typically also in charge of directing the sweepers when the skip throws).

“He lost the use of his right side and he’s a right-handed slide curler opposed to a stick (pushing the rock with a stick) curler,” says Terry Kratzmann, the team’s coach.

Basso also lost a majority of his speech from the stroke which happened right before the 2023 provincial tournament.

At the time, Kratzmann took a wait-and-see approach and within two weeks, Basso got some of his mobility back but still couldn’t do his usual slide delivery or sweep.

Kratzmann directed Basso’s mother to get a medical letter for Basso that allowed him on the ice (though not to sweep) so the team would take him to Kamloops for the provincial play-downs.

The letter was approved, so Kratzmann started training Basso a left-handed stick delivery for throwing the rock two weeks before the provincials.

Believing the team would be in the lower divisions of the tournament, it turned out to be the opposite. They ended up in the top division and were undefeated and qualified for the nationals.

Basso made the first two deliveries in the first end of every game that they played, and then he was off the ice.

“The reason I was so proud of the team, was that nobody ever questioned why Matt was going with us,” says Kratzmann. “It was obvious he was not going to be our third, so everybody had to go up a position and that turned out to be the highlight of my coaching career, ever. Nothing comes close to it.”

Basso has made almost a full recovery. He is delivering right-handed slide throws again. He also played third during the 2024 Special Olympics Winter Games.

“They did well,” says Kratzmann about the team’s overall performance. “What’s more important to me is how it works off the ice than on the ice. The reason we have the Special Olympics is to have them accepted (in the) mainstream. It’s the inclusion, and they are being included very well in the program we have.”

There are five athletes: Basso, Andrew Caulfield, Curtis Rinhofer, David Masters, and Mickie Hildebrandt. Kratzmann and Cheryl Clay coach.

Kratzmann, who works on the principle of “if you lose, say little, and if you win, say less,” says they had a stellar performance.

“That was emphasized at the games when presentations were made to volunteers, officials and organizers, and they asked our team to do all three presentations to those people, and we used the entire team to make those presentations,” says Kratzmann.

He’s been coaching the team for eight years now, and three of the team members have been there since day one, while the other two have been at the club for four and five years.

Kratzmann has been coaching for about 30 years and has coached almost at every level of curling including coaching for high school, ladies, juniors, and juvenile teams. He got out of teaching mainstream curling because of what he called entitlement from athletes and their parents.

“You reach the point of, if you criticize an athlete because they have a bad game, and they take it home, then the parents turn on you. I figured I was volunteering, and I can only pat this athlete on the back, but I can’t tell him where he’s gone wrong or what he’s doing wrong and if he takes it home and it gets back to me, I figured I don’t need this,” says Kratzmann. “I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.”

He took a break for two years, but an assistant coach for the club asked him to come back for three weeks to give the Campbell River Rocks any input on bringing the program to the next level. The three weeks turned into eight years.

“I love every moment of it.”

About the Author: Brendan Jure

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