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February 29, 2024

Community Spotlight presented by Crosbie

St. John’s Curler Breaking Barriers on the Ice

As Black History Month draws to a close, it's important to shine a light on people who are breaking barriers in their respective fields. One such individual is 17-year-old Sitaye Penney, a rising star at the St. John’s Curling Club, whose passion for curling is matched only by her dedication to increasing diversity in the sport.

Sitaye's journey in curling began when she was 5 years old, inspired by her curling enthusiast parents. She was introduced to the sport through the Little Rocks Program and quickly fell in love with the sport's strategy and camaraderie. Since the age of 10, she's played second on Team Locke, competing provincially and nationally, including representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2023 PEI Winter Games, and most recently, the U18 National Championships in Ottawa. 

For Sitaye, diversity in curling is not just a concept but a personal mission. Growing up as one of the only Black curlers at her club, she felt the absence of people who looked like her. 

“No one said comments, I was just aware of it. It doesn’t really bother me, it’s just a feeling that I’m the only Black person here,” said Sitaye.  

Despite the lack of representation, Sitaye remained undeterred and has used her passion for the sport to create a more inclusive environment.

Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Last year, Sitaye was honoured with the All Heart Award by Curling Canada and created a curling program aimed at introducing the sport to new immigrants and people from her school. The successful program is now in its second year with people joining every Saturday afternoon to learn the basics of curling.

“My main goal is to bring more diversity and feel like they have a place to belong,” she notes.

Sitaye’s future goals are to compete at Curling's top events like the Scotties and the Olympics. For now, she maintains a rigorous training schedule, balancing four practices a week, gym sessions, and mental preparation training. Her message to aspiring curlers is clear: don't let lack of representation hold you back. 

“Don’t be afraid to try the sport out even if you don’t see someone who looks like you. For me, even if there was no one curling that looked like me, I still went because I thought it was fun,” said Sitaye.

“I also got comments from people outside of curling saying, ‘Why do you play a white person sport?’, I never let that get into my head and I kept doing my thing.” 

Through her unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, Penny is helping shape the future of curling for generations to come.