What Peter Gallant really wanted was a hug. Well, five hugs.
Sure, the respected curling coach and father to Team Brad Gushue’s Brett Gallant wants many things, including another shot at the Olympics. But hugs from a team that once was his, and is now his again, was the more immediate desire.
April 29 practice session in Calgary • Steve Seixeiro-WCF
Counting down to his time in the curling bubble was difficult—he had to wait for those hugs from Korea’s Team Eun-jung Kim, hoping the protocols would allow for them at some point soon. You know why that is. We all, painfully, know why that is.
After having their curling relationship severed three years ago, and after having gone through so much together before being separated by maddening circumstances, Canada’s Gallant and the Korean team once (and perhaps still) known as the “Garlic Girls” are now reunited at the 2021 World Women’s Curling Championship in Calgary.
“They’re like my five daughters that I never had,” says Gallant. “They’re amazing, amazing girls.”
The hugs finally happened just the other day, at the Calgary airport. The team disembarked, claimed their luggage—and there he was, the coach, masked up and waiting for them at the end of a long corridor.
He got his hugs, and the moment was captured on the team’s Instagram account.
“Yeah,” Gallant says, warmly. “I was pretty excited to see them.
“It felt a bit like meeting old friends you haven’t seen in a long time. Or a close relative that you’ve missed. It was a happy feeling.”
The bond between Gallant and the Koreans–skip Kim Eun-jung, third Kim Kyeong-ae, second Kim Chohi, lead Kim Seon-yeong and alternate Kim Yeong-mi—is a strong one, forged through their silver medal success at the 2018 Olympics.
Fundamentally, this reunion of team and coach happened late last summer, albeit from a great distance. Gallant and Team Kim had, he says, an agreement for him to rejoin them if they’d managed to earn a spot at the 2021 worlds. They did that, with a victory at the Korean national curling championship, last November.
“There was the hope that I’d be able to get over there at some point and work with them,” explains Gallant. “But that wasn’t gonna happen because of COVID.”
The continuing pandemic has so far made a trip to South Korea impossible, so Gallant has been coaching and socializing from much farther away than the suggested six feet. There’ve been text messages, and Gallant also kept up with the team through their Instagram account postings.
“I’ve been in touch with their regular coach there,” he adds. “The odd time I’d give them some ideas of what they should be focused on, just to be sure they’re not missing things.”
Gallant’s history with Team Kim goes back to 2016 when he was first hired in an attempt to get the squad to loftier heights. That box got checked as the team scored victories at back-to-back Pacific-Asia championships in 2016 and ’17.