Math alumni use shared love of problem-solving to advance international curling

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

couple curling

April Gale-Seixero (BMath ’95) and Steve Seixero (BMath ’95) first took up curling after moving to Seattle in 1995, where Steve had just accepted a job at Microsoft. They saw it as a way to make friends in their new city while doing something distinctively Canadian. Little did they know it, but their adoption of the game would turn out to be the start of “a great adventure.”

April had curled in high school and quickly rediscovered what she loved about the game. “When I’m curling, there's nothing else–it's everything,” says April. “There aren’t many activities that take you out of all your worries and fully immerse you like that.”

Steve played hockey growing up but was new to curling and he struggled initially. “My first couple of slides were really bad and I ended up hurting my knee,” recalls Steve. Not to be deterred, he practiced alone at the arena and his skills improved quickly. April and Steve soon became avid curlers, competing in bonspiels and forming a large social network on the local curling scene.

From the start, the mathematically-minded couple was fascinated by the physics of the game. April graduated from Waterloo with a degree in statistics and actuarial science and enjoyed a long career in defined benefit pension administration. Steve graduated with a degree in mathematics and computer science and spent many years as a partner development manager at Microsoft. They believe their mathematical training gives them an advantage in curling.

“A big part of math is looking for patterns and that helps with curling,” explains April. “On any given day, you have to analyze the angles and take into account what the ice is doing or what impact sweeping is having.”

Yet the sport remained a hobby until the couple stumbled across a Facebook post in 2018 seeking out Portuguese curlers to form a national team.

Steve’s parents had emigrated from Portugal to Canada in the late 1960s and, a few years prior to seeing the Facebook post, Steve had applied for and received his Portuguese citizenship. He responded to the call and soon found himself on the phone with the post’s author, who was interested not just in Steve but April, too. He suggested that she acquire her Portuguese citizenship as quickly as possible so that they could form the Mixed Doubles team.

April and Steve leapt at the opportunity. Over the years, their passion for the sport had deepened as they became involved as more than just players. April volunteered extensively within the sport, even serving as president of their curling clubs in Seattle and Nanaimo, and Steve combined two passions by becoming a curling photographer. By forming Portugal’s first national curling team, they could help bring the sport they loved so dearly to a new global audience.  

Their international debut was delayed due to the pandemic, but in 2021, April and Steve travelled to Turkey for the pre-Olympic qualification tournament. They were the first Portuguese curlers to compete at a World Curling Federation event. While they were proud of this feat, they also wanted to show that they “belonged” as players.  

They proved this and more, making it to the tournament’s championship game and losing only on the last shot. “We came back from the event feeling even more competitive and more enthused about doing this again,” recalls Steve.

Since their debut, they have continued to help Portugal reach new curling milestones. Last year, Steve played for the Portuguese men’s team in the European Championship and April played with the Portuguese women’s team in the European Championship this Spring. It’s the first time a Portuguese women’s team competed internationally. 

And they’re thrilled to see that the sport is being embraced across the world. It has taken off in China, Japan and Hong Kong, and is gaining popularity in mainland Europe, including Portugal. This Fall, they will compete against other Portuguese players for the right to represent the country as the mixed doubles team, a challenge they welcome.

It’s just the next step in their unexpected curling journey–and they couldn’t be more excited to see where it leads. “Getting to do this Portuguese curling adventure with Steve has taken our appreciation for the sport to a whole new level,” reflects April. “It has just been spectacular.”