Calgary curlers focused

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

A provincial curling title, a national title and an Olympic gold medal.

All by the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. It's not so much to ask for, is it?

Not according to Bronwen Saunders.

The 26-year-old Calgary skip and her teammates have set what may seem lofty goals to some.

Saunders, first aiming at her third consecutive appearance at the provincial Scott Tournament of Hearts, knows where she wants to go.

"We want to play at our best," she says of herself, third Crystal Rumberg, second Erika Hildebrand and lead Tara Runquist. "Those goals are what motivate you on those days when you don't want to get up and curl."

So, they spent their weekends on the women's cashspiel circuit or practising, keeping their eyes focused on the long road ahead, which starts this weekend at the district playdowns.

All the women are in their 20s and unmarried, except for Rumberg, so you might think they'd be running the social scene, bar hopping and having fun. No way.

"Going to the bar isn't going to get you to the Olympics," Saunders said.

The Saunders rink is part of the Canadian Curling Association's La Releve program, which is Sport Canada's plan to develop future Olympians.

"It gives us access to resources like sports nutritionists and psychologists," she said. "We've spent a lot of hours off-ice working on it."

It's not showing in the results yet -- the Saunders rink has qualified only once in four cashspiels this season.

Saunders got to the quarter-final in Red Deer last month before losing 8-7 to Grande Prairie's Karen Powell.

But there's a feeling they're about to turn a corner, especially after welcoming Rumberg into the fold this season.

"We've grown a lot and she's a really great fit," said Saunders.

Saunders expects a "real battle" this weekend. She's among 13 skips at the North Hill club, vying for one of eight District 3 berths to the Southerns in Airdrie Jan. 7-10.

Michelle Sauve of Airdrie faces Calgary Winter Club's Cheryl Bernard and defending provincial champ Shannon Kleibrink for two District 2 berths in Didsbury, while five teams, inclusing Calgary's Heather Rankin, are after three District 1 berths in Vulcan.

ON THE ROCKS: Edmonton's Kevin Martin earned a cool $105,000 at the McCain TSN Skins Game in Bathurst, N.B., beating Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., who took $29,500 ... The CCA awarded the 2006 mixed nationals to Whitehorse yesterday, setting the event for Nov. 19-26, 2005.


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