A master curler from BC has been awarded the distinguished Harry Jerome Comeback Award, given out to an athlete who has returned to sport after a major setback.

In 2015 Keith Switzer suffered a heart attack on the ice while participating in a Mixed Doubles competition.

Despite the heart attack, which was the result of a near total blockage of one of his arteries, Keith was back on the ice as soon as he could.

Switzer will be recognized at the 51st Athlete of the Year Awards in Vancouver on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. The awards are run by Sport BC.

Switzer, from Vancouver, had been competing in the BC Mixed Doubles Curling Championship at the Peace Arch Curling Centre on January 30, 2015 when he suddenly collapsed. Keith received life-saving CPR on the ice, as well as two AED shocks to restart his heart.

There is no doubt that without that live-saving action, Switzer would not have survived.

Immediately following his resuscitation, Keith was ready to return to curling and responders had a hard time convincing him to stay down.

This is an example of Switzer’s attitude following his heart attack: he can’t be kept down and not only has he continued curling, he has excelled at it.

In 2016, he won the 2016 BC Master Men’s Championship and placed fourth at the 2016 Canadian Master Men’s Championships. As the defending Masters Champion in BC, he is ranked number one in the province. His incredible recovery and outstanding athletic achievements are an inspiration.

Switzer said: “Sports have been an important element of life to me – throughout the decades! While now dominated by curling in winter and tennis in summer, I was active in pretty much all sports, other than those in water. Interestingly, in my early teens I was into all track and field sports. My friend Craig Lodge and I were short distance track enthusiasts and competitors. While we had no training, we still challenged ourselves to meet or beat Harry Jerome’s times. You can imagine, now, the honour I feel for having my efforts in sport somehow attached to Harry’s name, his accomplishments and the challenges he faced.

“I don’t recommend to anyone the avenue I took to be considered for this recognition. To come back, one must have gone away… it is this ‘going away’ part that I don’t recommend. As you know, due to the immediate and skilled response of Scott Mol, Shelley Birston, and Della Bird – the going away was interrupted and I was given a second chance at life – restored opportunity to be with my family (including a new grandson) – and ability to return to the sports to enjoy the friendships and joys of competition they bring.

“I’m one lucky and very thankful guy!”

Switzer has also devoted a lot of time to volunteering for curling – he chaired the curling event at the Americas Masters Games, which was an incredibly popular event with all who took part.

The Athlete of the Year Awards, founded by Sport BC, is the longest standing amateur sport recognition event in the country. Awards in 18 different categories are given each year to athletes, coaches, and officials on their performance and contribution to sport in the province of British Columbia. The awards play a valuable role in nurturing athletic success while recognizing extraordinary accomplishments in BC.