No gain without pain

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:02 PM ET

Dave Smith's curling season thus far has been a pain in the butt. And the back. And the thigh. The 1994 provincial men's champion has been battling a lower back injury that shoots pain down through his hip and into his thigh.

Playing many games in a short period of time eventually causes Smith pain. And when you play in the MCA Men's Bonspiel, as Smith is doing this week in a last-gasp attempt for a Safeway Select provincial men's championship berth, you play a lot of games in a short period of time.

"I'm getting to know (the affliction) pretty well, like how often I can play before it starts," Smith said yesterday. "It's likely going to get sore.

"It's mostly just part of getting older and not having the flexibility the way I slide. It stresses those joints pretty hard, and I'm not getting any younger."

Smith, along with his St. Vital foursome of Don Nelson, Rick Lemoine and Greg Klassen, lost their opening match 7-1 to Chris Galbraith Thursday night, but they rebounded with a 12-0 win over Fort Garry's Guy Yerama yesterday afternoon to stay alive.

The top five eligible teams at the end of the MCA will pick up Select spots.

"(A Select berth) is not life or death for me, but it would be nice," Smith said. "We're capable of getting there, and if we can play well at the right time, then we can do well there, too.

"You don't want to miss something you feel you can compete in."

Smith, 40, figures he has played in approximately 13 provincial men's championships, and "two or three times" he got there through the MCA Bonspiel. That includes his grand aggregate title from two years ago. Nelson, who plays third for Smith, also skipped three of his own rinks to the provincial playdowns in the 1990s.

They might have to rely on that past success over the next five days, because their recent performances don't bode well for the future.

"We went hard there," Nelson said. "We went nine of 11 weekends and then (Smith's) leg was flaring up a bit, so we basically took a month off before the (Manitoba Curling) Tour championship.

"We didn't play sharp in the tour championship or the zones, so a couple games (this week) and hopefully we're right back to where we were."

Nelson, however, won't blame the team's woes on Smith's pain.

"We needed the time off anyways because we played so much," Nelson said. "It's not affecting him right now, so we can't say that that's causing anything. We just didn't play good."

Smith hasn't practised at all this winter -- "I never was a big fan of practising," he joked -- and now he has to hope that whatever is bothering him holds off as long as possible.

Unfortunately for him, it's a catch-22 situation when you're playing in the world's biggest bonspiel.

"It gets a little uncomfortable to play if I play too much, and it makes it difficult to play well if you can't play very much," he said.

"... We'll keep our one chance and take it as far as we can."


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