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Sun spotlight shines on Fowler

Brandon’s Rob Fowler won the provincial men’s curling title and then celebrated a bronze medal at the 2012 Brier.

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Brandon’s Rob Fowler won the provincial men’s curling title and then celebrated a bronze medal at the 2012 Brier. (FILE PHOTO)

Skip Rob Fowler (left) with his right-hand man, third Allan Lyburn, after earning bronze medals at the Brier.

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Skip Rob Fowler (left) with his right-hand man, third Allan Lyburn, after earning bronze medals at the Brier. (FILE PHOTO)

Andrew Clark

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Andrew Clark (FILE PHOTO)

Halli Krzyzaniak

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Halli Krzyzaniak (FILE PHOTO)

Amanda Thornborough

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Amanda Thornborough (FILE PHOTO)

Josh Wytinck

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Josh Wytinck (FILE PHOTO)

After two decades of curling success, 2012 produced Rob Fowler’s crowning achievement so far.

Fowler, 37, skipped Brandon’s first team to win the provincial men’s curling title since his father did it 1987, and went on to guide Manitoba to third place at the Tim Hortons Brier national championship. That dream season, combined with Fowler’s past success, led the Brandon Sun’s board of selectors to name him the 55th winner of the H.L. (Krug) Crawford Award, emblematic of sporting excellence in southwestern Manitoba.

The 1998 provincial mixed champion and a three-time Manitoba men’s winner as Jeff Stoughton’s second (2007, 2009, 2010), Fowler’s victory as a skip at the provincial Safeway Championship was something he had dreamed of virtually since the first time he slid out of the hack.

"That was a huge highlight, not only our season but really kind of for my curling career," said Fowler, who was supported by third Allan Lyburn of Brandon as well as second Richard Daneault and lead Derek Samagalski of Winnipeg. "I think as a little kid that’s something that you dream about doing, and all the work that’s been put in over the years I think was vindicated when we had a chance to win the Safeway Championship."

Fowler’s dream was fuelled in part by the success of his parents. In addition to the men’s title won by his father, Brian, Rob’s mother, Lois, has won six provincial championships — four in women’s, one in senior women’s and a mixed crown on her son’s 1998 team.

"I think that they were both very proud parents at the Brier last year and they’re definitely a big part of it," said Rob Fowler, whose sister Rhonda Ritchie is also a former provincial women’s champion. "The whole family has kind of grown up around the curling rink and obviously take a lot of pride in what we’ve been able to accomplish."

Not to be overlooked are the contributions of Fowler’s teammates, particularly Lyburn, who was a worthy contender for the award himself as an all-star at both the Safeway Championship and the Brier in Saskatoon. The longtime friends have proven to complement one another perfectly.

"We played together back kind of in the late ’90s, early 2000s and of course he was the skip and I played third," Fowler said. "And this time around I was wanting to skip and he agreed that it was a good time for him to play third, so I think the fact that we’ve walked a mile in each other’s shoes helps. There’s times out there when something needs to be said, but there’s times where maybe it’s good to just not say anything and let the skip go ahead and play a shot. And I think Allan, because he skipped, understands that."

In their second season together, the Fowler foursome had a remarkable run, placing ninth on the World Curling Tour’s order of merit and entering the Safeway Championship in Dauphin as the third seed. They lost their first playoff game before reeling off five straight victories — including one in the Page playoffs against his former teammate Stoughton.

"I think we really felt that it was possible for us to do what we did after we beat Stoughton on Saturday night in the 3-4 game," Fowler recalls. "Obviously at that time he was the current world champion and to beat him on Saturday night and to get within two games of the provincial championship in Dauphin, I think that’s when kind of you could start to taste it."

Fowler followed that by beating his former junior teammate William Lyburn — Allan’s brother — 6-5 in the semifinal before upsetting ex-Brandonite and WCT money-leader Mike McEwen 10-6 for the historic title.

At the Brier, the Manitobans came on strong down the stretch, finishing with an 8-3 round-robin record and advancing to the semifinal where they lost an 8-6 heartbreaker to Alberta’s Kevin Koe. Not content to go home empty-handed, Manitoba rebounded to edge Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories/Yukon 8-7 in an extra end to win the bronze medal.

"Bouncing back with the win in the bronze-medal game gave us something to come home with and I think that showed a lot about our team," Fowler said.

As proud of a moment as that was, Fowler hopes that it’s not the peak of his career as a skip. In fact, it only reinforced the desire his team has to get back to the Brier and take another run at a national title.

"That is the best feeling you can have in curling, representing your province in a big environment like what’s at the Brier," he said. "The cashspiels are great and that allows us to prepare for provincials, but there’s no feeling like winning a province and having the chance to represent your province in the Brier."


The difficulty in narrowing down the field for athlete of the year is reflected in our stellar group of runners-up this season.

The list of candidates for the annual H.L. (Krug) Crawford Memorial Award was so strong that 2011 winner Mark Stone — the WHL’s 2012 most sportsmanlike player and Canada’s goal leader in the 2012 world junior championship — and 2009 winner Lisa Barclay — the MVP at the 2012 CIS women’s volleyball nationals — narrowly missed the final cut.


Here are our four runners-up, listed in alphabetical order:



Accidentally ommitted in our initial list of 16 finalists for athlete of the year, the 24-year-old Brandonite capped a remarkable season by being named Canadian university hockey’s male player of the year in 2012. An all-Canadian centre, Clark led the Acadia Axemen and the Atlantic conference in scoring with 15 goals and 39 points in 28 games. A former 40-goal scorer with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings in 2008-09 — his fourth and final season in the WHL — Clark is currently second in conference scoring with nine goals and 21 points in 16 games.



The 17-year-old Neepawa native is currently serving as an alternate captain for Canada at the world women’s under-18 hockey championship after winning a gold medal at the 2012 worlds. Krzyzaniak also helped lead Manitoba to a silver medal — its best-ever finish — at the Canadian under-18 women’s hockey championship in November in Dawson Creek, B.C., where Krzyzaniak was named the most valuable player. She has five goals and 14 points in 20 games for the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna, B.C.




The 22-year-old Brandonite made Canada’s senior women’s sevens rugby team, competing in the North American-Caribbean championship in the summer and the prestigious Dubai Sevens Tournament in the United Arab Emirates in December where she helped lead Canada’s development team to a 7-0 record. The 5-foot-6 winger, a graduate of the Vincent Massey and Brandon Barbarians rugby programs, was also named a CIS all-Canadian, helping lead St. FX University to the national title.



The 20-year-old Glenboro native wrapped up his most successful golf season by being named Golf Manitoba’s amateur player of the year in October. A member of the University of Manitoba Bisons golf team, Wytinck became the first golfer from Westman to win the Manitoba Men’s Amateur title in July. Wytinck served as captain of the Bisons golf team and led them to five top-five finishes in university events this season.

» Brandon Sun



2012 — Rob Fowler, curling

2011 — Mark Stone, hockey

2010 — Paul Sanderson, volleyball

2009 — Lisa Barclay, volleyball

2008 — Brayden Schenn, hockey

2007 — Mark Derlago, hockey

2006 — Jenna Kerbis, gymnastics

2005 — Eric Fehr, hockey

2004 — Neil Andrews, curling, baseball

2003 — Jordin Tootoo, hockey

2002 — Israel Idonije, football

2001 — Jerry Hemmings, basketball

2000 — Shane Moffatt, baseball

1999 — Reed Eastley, baseball, volleyball

1998 — Cory Cyrenne, hockey

1997 — Grady Manson, hockey

1996 — Carmen Hurd, track and field

1995 — Kelly McCrimmon, hockey

1994 — Pam Flick, basketball

1993 — Marty Murray, hockey

1992 — Sandra Hamilton, basketball

1991 — Joey Vickery, basketball

1990 — Trevor Kidd, hockey

1989 — Shirley Bray, curling

1988 — Patrick Jebbison, basketball

1987 — Mabel Mitchell, curling

1986 — John Carson, basketball

1985 — Al Robertson, baseball

1984 — Ray Ferraro, hockey

1983 — Cathy Woodmass, water skiing

1982 — Jerry Hemmings, basketball

1981 — Diane Ogibowski, figure skating

1980 — Dan Halldorson, golf

1979 — Dunc McCallum, hockey

1978 — Glen Hanlon, hockey

1977 — Dan Halldorson, golf

1976 — Bob Thompson, baseball, hockey

1975 — Karen Anderson, curling, fastball

1974 — Jack Brockest, hockey

1973 — Ron Chipperfield, hockey

1972 — Lawrie Lewis, track and field

1971 — Gary Howard, basketball

1970 — Don Sumner, baseball, curling

1969 — Vailla Hoggan, water skiing

1968 — Buck Matiowski, recreation

1967 — Gerry MacKay, baseball, curling

1966 — Juha Widing, hockey

1965 — Bill Robinson, gymnastics

1964 — Lynda Kidd, basketball, softball

1963 — Earl Dawson, hockey

1962 — Fred Pilcher, curling

1961 — Ron Maxwell, hockey

1960 — Jake Milford, hockey

1959 — Mike Doig, shooting

1958 — Jack Matheson, hockey, golf

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