There's no strength in numbers

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

Curling is a sport in which Canada expects to medal at the Olympics.

And why not?

It has always been that way, starting in Calgary at the 1988 Winter Games when B.C.'s Linda Moore captured gold and hometown boy Ed Lukowich earned bronze.

Curling was only a demonstration sport then. Now, with the sport afforded full medal status, the competition has heated up.

Warren Hansen, Canadian Curling Association's manager of event operations, acknowledges golds will be tough to come by at next year's Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

"Without question, we have the best curlers in the world," he said. "We have the opportunity because we outnumber the rest of the curling world probably by a 10-to-1 ratio, as far the number of curlers go.

"But the rest of the world is getting better."

At the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, B.C.'s Kelley Law earned bronze after losing her semi to the eventual gold-medal team from Great Britain, skipped by Rhona Martin.

Edmonton's Kevin Martin claimed silver, losing the final to Norway's Pal Trulsen.

But shouldn't it be gold every year, a trend the late Sandra Schmirler tried to start in 1998 by winning gold in Nagano?

"The world level is getting tougher, closer," Hansen said. "Both those '02 games were ... last-rock decisions. If we take a look at the world level, we don't win there every year, either. We win more than our fair share."

Canada's representatives will be decided at the Tim Hortons trials, dubbed the Roaring of the Rings, at the Halifax Metro Centre, Dec. 3-11.

Only three berths on either the men's and women's sides remain open. Those go to this year's national champions, the 2005 Canada Cup champions and the Canadian Team Ranking System leaders at the end of the season.

"We have some of the best teams in the country in there already," said Hansen, giving a nod to such rinks as Edmonton's Randy Ferbey, Calgary's John Morris and Shannon Kleibrink and Halifax's Mark Dacey and Colleen Jones.

"I doubt there are many times you'll get more of the better teams in Canada under one roof competing for one title," Hansen said.

Will the winners come home from Turin with gold medals in their pockets?

"Yeah, it would be nice," Hansen said.

"But it's played on ice, so it's slippery, right?"


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