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90-year-old curler 'better than the rest of us' at Edmonton club

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An Edmonton curler's many decades on the ice are an inspiration to teammates and opponents alike at the Ellerslie Curling Club.

When asked how long he's been curling, Cliff Holm sighs, "A looooooooong time." Then he counts the years: "Twenty-five, 35, 45… Oh, about 45 years."

But a curling career going on five decades isn't the most impressive part. That's Holm's age.

"I'm the same age as my tongue and I'm a little older than my teeth," he snickers, eventually sobering enough to admit: "I'm 90 years old."

People don't believe Jay Pritchard when he tells them his teammate is a nonagenarian.

"Can he play?" he says they ask.

"Hell, he can play better than the rest of us or he wouldn't be the skip," Pritchard replies.

"And he just had a knee replacement, for goodness' sake."

Cliff Holm, 90, skips three times a week at Edmonton's Ellerslie Curling Club.

"He must be good, right?!" adds the club's manager, Brayden Oswald. "He's practised for longer than I've been alive."

It's a Tuesday, one of three days in the week that Holm steps onto the ice in Ellerslie. The seniors league claims dayside Tuesdays and Thursdays, so around Holm and Pritchard dozens of players of all ages play.

And Holm isn't alone in his class. Pritchard and Oswald point to the older guys as proof that curling is an inclusive opportunity to have fun and be competitive.

"I think the sport willing to adapt and not play hardball in what the traditions of the sport are really opens the door for continued participation. Like with a stick, 90-year-olds with 50-year-olds playing with juniors, whatever," Oswald commented.

Some – including Holm – are aided by long sticks with which they throw the rocks, rather than crouching down for a traditional slide. Wednesdays host the "stick league."

"(People) have said to me, 'You're crazy,'" Holm says. "And I say, I know, but that's what keeps me from going insane."

The 90-year-old was introduced to the sport by way of a bonspiel in his hometown of Norquay, Sask., when he was about 13 years old.

Holm played in a second bonspiel through school that same season, and then not again for about 40 years. He re-entered the curling world at Edmonton's Shamrock Curling Club in the 70s and has played at several rinks across the city over the years – but none longer than Ellerslie's, where he's played more than three decades.

"People's first impressions of Cliff are that he's too serious, he's too competitive, winning is everything," Pritchard told CTV News Edmonton. "He isn't like that at all, and we've all learned that. The relationship between the four of us is what's most important, having fun together is important. The object of the game, however, is to win, so try to put those three together and succeed – and that's Cliff."

Jay Pritchard curls with Cliff Holm, 90, at Ellerslie Curling Club in Edmonton. "I think he's caused me to be a better curler and I've caused him to be a happier person," Pritchard said of Holm.

The two met when Pritchard joined the club.

"My very first game was against him. He was a skip and I was a skip and everybody said we were doomed. And we beat him and he was just angry as all get-out," Holm's second laughs.

That was more than four years ago. If you can't beat 'em…

"Sometime after that, I got a chance to play with him and it's turned into a wonderful relationship. I think he's caused me to be a better curler and I've caused him to be a happier person," Pritchard says.

Holm credits his long dedication to curling to the sport's "camaraderie."

"We have a lot of fun. They're a great bunch – oh, a super bunch – to curl with," Holm says.

"I've been telling the boys I hope to be here for another 10 years."

It's a goal shared by all of the curlers.

"I'm a young guy myself, but maybe one day when I get old and grey, I'll be like Cliff and you can interview me again," Oswald joked.

Pritchard said, "I just said to (Cliff) a minute ago, 'When you're 100, I hope I'm still curling with you.'

"And he laughed and said, 'I doubt it. You'll be gone by then.'"

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb 

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