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Saskatchewan third Sara England makes a shot during a draw against British Columbia at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. England is making her junior national debut for Saskatchewan.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

In the basement of Richard Hart's Pickering, Ont., home, there is a photograph taken in Nagano, Japan, where he was competing for Canada in the 1998 Olympic men's curling championships. His infant son, Joey, is sitting in Sandra Schmirler's lap, surrounded by the rest of Schmirler's women's Olympic curling team, all of them fussing over the cute three-month old baby.

"Joe was born in November, 1997, and in the meantime, Sandra's daughter, Sara, was just born the previous September," Hart remembered. "Sara was left at home because Sandra was competing and it would have been a lot for her to curl and to be the primary caregiver for a baby. All the ladies on the Canadian women's team had young children at home, so they just loved it – to spend a little time with baby Joe."

Almost two decades later, those two infants are now teenagers and both will compete in the Canadian national junior championships, beginning this weekend in Victoria.

Joey Hart, now 19, is representing Ontario, along with his brother David, 17, as part of a team skipped by Matthew Hall.

Meanwhile, Schmirler's daughter, Sara England, 19, is making her junior national debut, curling as a third on Kaitlyn Jones's Saskatchewan team.

Curling has always been something of a family affair, but to the extent that this year's national junior championships feature the sport's Generation Next is virtually unprecedented.

In addition to Hart's sons and Schmirler's daughter, the national championships will also feature Manitoba skip Laura Burtnyk, the daughter of Kerry Burtnyk, a two-time Brier champion and the 1995 world champion.

Manitoba's third is Hailey Ryan, daughter of Jeff Ryan, another former Brier and world champion, and the niece of Pat Ryan, a three-time Brier winner and two-time world champion.

Hailey Ryan's brother, J.T., will skip the Manitoba boys' team, where his third is Jacques Gauthier, son of Cathy Gauthier, a two-time Scotties winner.

Additionally, Quebec skip Vincent Roberge and second Étienne Elmaleh are the sons of former Brier champion and world silver medalists François Roberge and Maxime Elmaleh. And there are a handful of other players whose parents played in either the Brier or the Scotties, but didn't win, including Alberta's Kristen Streifel (daughter of Tracey) and PEI's Chris Gallant, child of Peter and Kathie Gallant.

As a parent, Hart said he always hoped his kids would get into the sport.

"Unlike some of the other sports, curling's long been considered more of an amateur sport, so it's not necessarily a career choice like professional hockey is," Hart said. "But all my friends, I've met through curling. I met my wife through curling. My family curls. It's such a massive part of my life that it would be hard to imagine if my kids didn't get involved."

But Schmirler's daughter, Sara, says she originally resisted the temptation to follow in her mother's footsteps. "In all honesty, when I was in Grade 3 or 4, we had a 'learn-to-curl program' in Regina – and I was totally not into it at all," she said. "I didn't want to join. I didn't want to be known as another curler in the family. My grandma and my dad [Shannon England] pushed me a lot – I don't want to say forced – but they put me into learn-to-curl and, ever since then, I've loved it.

"At first, I was really worried about being known as Sandra Schmirler's daughter that curls and not making a name for myself, but slowly it's coming. We've been to the Canada Games, and now we're going to the juniors for the first time. People still see me as Sandra Schmirler's daughter, but they also see me as my own curler, which is kind of nice."

Curling became a full-medal Olympic sport in 1998, so Schmirler and Hart were members of the first Canadian curling teams to win Olympic medals. Schmirler's rink won gold, while Hart's team won silver.

Sadly, Schmirler lost her battle with cancer in March, 2000, leaving Shannon England to raise his daughters, Sara and Jenna, as a single parent, with the help of Sara's grandmother.

Sara said she had good family support in her household. "I was just two years old when she passed away, so that was normal for me – growing up, without a mom in my life. But I had my grandmother. She lived with us and she took over the role of the mom."

Now, as she rises through the curling ranks, Sara says she can feel her mother's presence beside her, on the ice.

"My first year with the team I'm with now was three years ago at the Canada Games," she said. "When I represented Saskatchewan for the first time – that was probably the time I felt more connected to her than I ever have. I also think it's just because I got a lot of attention through it, so I had to talk about her a lot more. I had to think about her a lot more. Ever since then, every time I step on the ice, it feels as if she's with me from now on."

The sport of curling has evolved greatly from one generation to the next, largely because of its inclusion in the Olympics, according to Hart. The new kids on the block look a lot different than the players he curled with and against at a similar age.

"It sounds odd because where most sports are kind of at their peak and then get accepted into the Olympics, the Olympics really helped change our sport," Hart said. "Once we joined the Olympics, a switch really went off among all the top players. Everyone was looking to gain some sort of advantage. Obviously, what it's done is the same thing that happened in all the other sports, where fitness became a big part. Guys weren't staying out all night partying any more. They were working out in the gym and practising on the ice.

"You look at pictures of our men's team and Sandra's team and compare that to the Olympic teams going to Sochi in 2014, and there's no comparison. We were lumpy, young guys who enjoyed having a beer or two at the end of the night. These teams nowadays, they are not like that."

England agrees: "When I was younger, my friends never thought of curling as a sport. So now, more recently, you look at Brad Jacobs or on Rachel Homan's team, Joanne Courtney, they look strong and muscular. Curling's getting noticed for the athleticism that's in the sport.

"You can't just walk down the ice and lightly brush a rock. You actually have to put in all the effort in the off-ice training – and the mental training, I would say, is even harder than the physical training."

Hart retired from curling briefly, but returned to play on a team with his old skip Glenn Howard, which limited the amount of time he could spend coaching his sons.

Accordingly, their coach is now Ray Bushfield, but Hart will go to Victoria and help out at the start of the event because Bushfield had a scheduling conflict.

Once there, Hart plans to look up England, whom he met at an event a few years back. He might even try to dig up that old photograph of her mom, posed with young Joey.

Does it seem odd to Hart to go to these competitions, as a parent, watching his kids exchange shots with the children of his former opponents?

On the contrary. "I'm really embracing it," Hart said with a big smile. "I've already sent a message to Kerry Burtnyk's wife on Facebook and told them I'm excited to spend some time with them again. We competed for so many years. Kerry, Jeff Ryan – these are all guys I look up to. It's fun to be going through this together again; and I know they're excited about it, too."