Curlers gettin' Games face on

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

John Morris and Ben Hebert are game for the Games.

Not just for curling but for whatever comes their way when the two Calgarians embrace the Olympic experience.

For bobsled, for hockey, for figure skating ... for whatever fits their schedule at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

"It's finally here -- it's been a long time coming -- and we're starting to get tingly, and we're giddy and smiling," said Hebert, who will represent Canada as lead of Kevin Martin's Olympic rink.

"We were just watching this thing on TV with Sid the Kid (Crosby) and (Alexander) Ovechkin about the Olympic hockey, and we're getting pretty pumped up.

"Certainly, our No.-1 goal is to go there and represent the country as best as possible," Hebert continued. "But we're sports fans as well, so we want to go and take in other events."

While Martin, Morris, Hebert and second Marc Kennedy are business-first about gunning for curling gold, they plan to lend support to fellow Canadian Olympians during the 17 days of the Games.

That's an order from 'The Old Bear' himself, Martin, who's usually no-nonsense when it comes to focusing on the task at hand but who's been to two previous Winter Olympics as a competitor. He was a fourth-place finisher in 1992 Albertville and the silver medallist in 2002 Salt Lake City.

"We're going to definitely soak up this whole experience because you're only at an Olympics once or twice in a lifetime, if you're lucky, and you definitely don't want to be hiding in a bubble so you go away saying, 'What in the heck just happened?' " said Morris, arguably the planet's best third.

"It took me 10 years of hard work to get to my first one, and you don't know if there's going to be another one, so you've got to live in the present.

"You have to have the mindframe that you've got to have fun," Morris continued.

"If you're too uptight at a big event, you're not going to play up to potential."

Certainly, the reigning national champions will need to live up to potential given what's demanded of them in Vancouver. It's gold or bust on home soil for the Canadian entry, especially since Martin is on his third quest for the elusive medal.

"I'd be lying if I said we weren't the favourites," Hebert said. "There's certainly a lot of other good teams there. But we've earned that title with what we've accomplished the last couple of years. But that means nothing once we get there.

"Scotland -- they're players," added Hebert of defending world champion David Murdoch.

"Norway for sure, too. Sweden's very good, and Switzerland's a top team. Andy Kapp and Germany are always going to be in the mix. The U.S., China ... It's a one-week tournament, so teams can turn it on, but those teams are the most consistent teams when it comes to events like the Olympics.

"But I could care less whether we're the favourite or the underdog -- we're going to go there and play our game."

EXTRA ENDS

Canada begins Olympic roundrobin play against Norway's Thomas Ulsrud at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 ... Brent Bawel came within three wins of representing Alberta at the Brier. Bawel and his Calgary Curling Club rink lost 8-6 Saturday to Edmonton's Ted Appelman in the 3-4 game of the Boston Pizza Cup, a.k.a. the men's provincials in Olds. Bawel, third Dan Petryk, second Sean O'Connor and lead Jason Lesmeister qualified for the playoffs though the C event, dumping Red Deer's Rob Armitage 10-3 Saturday afternoon to reach the championship round. Meanwhile, it was a quick exit for Adrian Bakker's rink at the provincials. The veteran skip and his Calgary Curling Club squad lost three straight games to finish winless.

LAST ROCK

The juvenile men's and women's southerns run Friday through Monday at The Glencoe Curling Club. Fifteen men's teams challenge for three berths at the Alberta championships, while nine women's rinks will compete for three provincial spots.

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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