Olson's back in the hack

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

Mark Olson is hoping to be back in a provincial championship for the first time since 2001 -- if his back will allow it.

Olson, who played third for Kerry Burtnyk when he won the 1981 Brier, came out of retirement to play third for Vic Peters' senior team this season. That Granite foursome has been deemed the No. 1 seed for the Manitoba senior men's provincial championship that will be played alongside the senior women's provincials at the Brandon Curling Club this Thursday through Monday.

"It's exciting and I'm really anxious to get out there," Olson said Tuesday. "But I blew my back out last week and I'm getting it worked on ... I'm getting older and fatter, and that's what happens."

Olson, 52, was planning to test it out during a Tuesday practice session. If Olson cannot answer the bell, Peters plans to get former men's provincial champion Brian Fowler to replace Olson. Since Fowler is already in the spare pool for the event, Peters will not need special permission to use Fowler.

"He's supposed to be coaching us, but we'd let him off the hook," said Brandon's Lois Fowler, who will attempt to defend her senior women's title this week. "Hopefully, Mark can play."

After 2001, Olson played with Peters during the formation of the Grand Slam/Brier boycott, then retired. He had not curled for four years when Peters convinced him to try the comeback.

"Vic's a very easy guy to curl for, very knowledgeable and still very talented," said Olson, who played third for Dale Duguid when he lost the 2001 men's provincial final to Burtnyk. "And now, they have a senior world championship."

Second Chris Neufeld and lead Charlie Salina round out the rink.

"You never know what's going to happen in seniors but we've got a real solid squad," Olson said.

It is also a real solid field as Hamiota's defending champion Brent Strachan has been seeded second; Fort Garry's Bob Sigurdson has been deemed No. 3 in his foray into seniors; with Neepawa's Kelly Robertson and Fort Rouge's Clare DeBlonde rounding out the top five.

NEW MANTRA: Lois Fowler, the No. 1 seed on the senior women's side, feels she has some unfinished business after losing the semifinal at last year's nationals.

"That's exactly our mantra," said Fowler, still supported by third Gwen Wooley, second Lori Manning and Lynn Sandercock. "We've had a great season again and there's no reason why we can't play well enough to get good results. But there's 15 other teams out there that want it as much as we do and they stand in our way.

"But we won't be going down without a fight."

Actually, the Fowler family hopes to spend most of March down East. Brian and Lois will watch their son, Rob, play second for Jeff Stoughton at the Brier in Halifax. Then, Lois hopes to be in Ottawa for the senior nationals a week later.

Rounding out the top five seeds, in order, are: Brandon's Linda Van Daele and Joyce McDougall, Stonewall's Arlene Deprez and Fort Garry's Chris Scalena.

CH-CHANGES: While the senior men's provincials will remain the same, the senior women's will be reduced to a 12-team field next year, with teams qualifying through the seven sports regions and a berth bonspiel ... Not only that but the Masters women's champion will be determined simply through one big bonspiel that will be moved around the province. Treherne will host the first one.


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