Curlers swept up in Games cycle

JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

How do you spell Vancouver Olympics for curlers?

CTRS. That's how.

The Canadian Team Ranking System, the point allocation protocol that has governed curler's lives for the past three years is especially important in the last year of the pre-Olympic cycle.

The John Shea Insurance Canada Cup Qualifier that started yesterday at the Rideau and Ottawa curling clubs is a big part of this curling spelling bee.

Plenty of high profile rinks from across the country are in town. Despite already having attained a spot in the pre-trials tournament, Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink is here.

The Torino Olympics bronze medalist is having a banner season. But is this three year cycle a long grind?

"We're used to it now. Actually, it's been more than three years because we did it for the last Olympics so it's more like seven years." Does the team get tired of playing? "We don't get sick of it until about March."

Many top teams plan their season far in advance.

"We have to be here," she said. "We have to stay ahead of the teams who are just behind us right now in the CTRS standing."

Many of the competing rinks have little experience competing at two clubs in one bonspiel.

Rachel Homan's local team is one team that must do well if they hope to clinch a pre-trails berth. In her initial game, Homan threw a crowd-pleasing tough double to score two to tie Winnipeg's Karen Porritt. Homan failed to steal when the Manitoba skip cleared Homan's shot rock to score one. Team Homan takes the ice today at the Rideau at 11:15 a.m.

Other match-ups see Jennifer Jones against Suzanne Birt (Gaudet) from P.E.I. at 8 a.m. at the Ottawa. B.C.'s Kelly Scott faces Regina's Chantelle Eberle at the Rideau at 11:15 a.m.

Dawn Askin, a former Ottawa native and lead for Jennifer Jones and who now resides in Winnipeg, is glad to be back in town.

"I've seen so many old friends. This is the first time I've played here since I moved to Winnipeg."

Team Jones is the only women's squad that has a trials berth.

"We just like to play. We like to get better." said Askin.

Her boyfriend, Mike McEwen, is coincidentally fighting for a qualifying spot in the Edmonton equivalent of this event.

Theresa Breen who threw third for Ottawa's Anne Merklinger is here with Team Mary-Anne Arsenault from Nova Scotia.

AT STAKE

First place awards 36 points, down to 14 points for a 9th to 13th place finish. While points are the event's carrot, there is a substantial pot of money involved -- $65,200 in total. The winner cashes out with $12,000, with each qualifier carrying home $3,000.

Event passes are $30 and available at both the Ottawa and Rideau venues.

Today's draws at both clubs are at 8 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 9 p.m.


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