Western girls rule!

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

When it comes to Ice Girls, there's no match for western Canadian curling gals. While eastern gals presumably spend their time whining about going to Miami, western gals are tough enough to hit the ice and chuck some rocks.

How else can you explain curling's Great Divide?

Of the top-12 leading money earners on the Women's Tour, 11 have a western Canadian address. And the 12th is Saskatchewan-raised Sherry Middaugh, who married Wayne of ... yecch! ... Toronto. Both are ranked No. 7 on their respective money-leaders list.

History says a western Canadian team will represent Canada at the Olympics again. The late Sandra Schmirler of Regina won Canada's only Olympic curling gold in 1998 and Kelley Law of New Westminster brought home bronze in 2002.

Chances are, one of the teams playing in the Canada Cup West at the Saville Centre this weekend could be the one rink to rule them all at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Calgary's Cheryl Bernard has the best chance. Not only does her $41,850 lead the women's tour earnings, but she has a comfortable lead in the Canadian Team Ranking System.

Curiously, the top four CTRS teams are Alberta-based.

Bernard (75.55 points), fellow Calgarian Renelle Bryden (61.37), Cathy King of Edmonton (54.92) and Renee Sonnenberg of Grande Prairie (49.66) all have a shot at the Olympic Trials berth up for grabs this weekend.

Only Bernard has the luxury of a fallback position.

"It's nice to go into it at this level,'' said Bernard. "We've been playing consistent all year. Most of the pressure on the teams this weekend is the Olympic Trials spot. I don't know so much if we're focusing on the money and the points, but the pressure is definitely on for the Trials spot.

"It would be good to get it out of the way and get a bit of a breather, but we haven't had breathers all year long.''

A field of this calibre makes it that much tougher.

"You have to fight and scratch - there's too many good teams,'' said Bernard.

"Look at the top teams. They're all Alberta teams. The provincials is going to be hell. Gawd, it'll be a nightmare out there. Alberta provincials will be close to the Scotts.

"Whoever wins this will be very well-deserving. There's no running away from it. You have to play these teams all the time. The winner will enjoy it. I'd like to be that person.''

Bryden may be secretly hoping for a Bernard win, if her squad falls short. That would put Bryden No. 1 in the pecking order. But, she's not showing it.

"It's great to see so many of the west teams doing so great,'' said Bryden. "It's still early (for the points option).''

King's in a tougher position. Her best hope right now is to win this weekend outright.

"All we can do is play one game at a time and hope we can keep on winning,'' said King. "I'm sure every team here would like to win it outright. Money's just a bonus.''

Because of the imbalance of power in the west, King believes the system will have to be twigged for the next Trials cycle.

Western gals are that good.


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