Olympic trials berth a bonus

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:56 AM ET

It's a $14,000 prize for first place. But that's only the icing on the cake. A berth at next year's Olympic trials is what most curlers covet at the Canada Cup West, which opens today at the Saville Centre in Edmonton.

"Money-wise, it's big," said Cheryl Bernard yesterday as she was heading north. "But it's big because of you-know-what's at stake."

Bernard, third Susan O'Connor, second Jody McNabb and lead Karen Ruus haven't yet earned a berth at the Canadian Olympic trials in Halifax next December. But they have to be considered one of the frontrunners for this weekend's spiel after taking the Women's Curling Tour title by topping the money list at $41,850.

Bernard, however, is trying to stay focused on that old cliche: One game at a time.

"(The Olympics berth) is hovering day and night. It won't go away," she said, laughing "It's hard not to think about it. The one good thing is when you're out there on the ice, you focus on the game. You never get too far ahead of yourself.

"But when we get off the ice, go to bed and wake up in the morning, we're thinking about it."

Trouble is, her first game is coming later than everyone else's. One team dropped out so Bernard, ranked No. 1, gets a bye through the first round which starts at 6 p.m. tonight.

The Calgary skip and her teammates don't see it as a good thing..

"We're a little bit panicked about having that one game off because we'll be behind the 8-ball as far as knowing the ice," Bernard said.

Then again, just about everyone is new to the Saville Centre. The 10-sheet facility, which opened last January, will put the curlers in an arena-type atmosphere, with which Bernard said she's comfortable.

"Oh sure, I've been there with the Scott and the old Bill Hunter spiel so we've been on arena ice," she said.

She also likes being familiar with the field, which includes many of the usual suspects such as fellow Calgarians Bronwen Saunders, Renelle Bryden, Heather Rankin, Diane Foster and defending provincial champ Shannon Kleibrink.

Throw in Olympic bronze medallist Kelley Law of B.C. and four-time Alberta champ Deb Santos of Edmonton and Bernard is looking at a helluva competition.

The men's draw, featuring Calgarians John Morris and Darren Moulding, starts at 3 p.m.


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