Morris has righted the ship in time for Olympic try

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:06 PM ET

It's an afternoon at the Calgary Winter Club and John Morris and his boys just had their butts handed to them -- by a bunch of girls.

But Morris, third Kevin Koe, second Marc Kennedy and lead Paul Moffatt aren't miserable. In fact, they're laughing.

"We just got pounded by Shannon Kleibrink," said Kennedy of the Calgary women's rink, who will compete at the Olympic trials, which begin today in Halifax.

"I think Shannon might have a chance of winning the men's, the way they played against us. I'm glad we don't have to play them in our round-robin. Holy."

This Morris foursome made quite a habit of getting beaten last season.

After Morris moved to Calgary in 2003 from Ottawa, where he won back-to-back national and world junior championships, he assembled this team, which burst onto the curling scene.

Earning its berth at the Olympic trials in Halifax, the team finished runner-up to Edmonton's Randy Ferbey at the Canada Cup in Kamloops, B.C., and then won the World Curling Tour's Players Championship in St. John's, N.L.

But last season, success went the way of the wind. The rink was lucky to pocket any money, let alone make it out of the qualifying round of a cashspiel.

Things are different now. In four tour stops this season, they have a trio of top-three results, including a win at the Meyers Norris Penny spiel in Medicine Hat, worth $26,500.

But the results don't matter. What does is winning the trials and representing Canada at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Feb. 10-26.

"I think we've improved quite a bit on our struggles last year," said Kennedy, a 23-year-old from St. Albert, Alta. "We know we're not playing our absolute best still but we're playing pretty good.

"And we feel like we have a good chance of winning this thing."

They could have all thrown in the towel, considering the frustrations of 2004-05. But the dream of Halifax made them persevere, said Moffatt, a 27-year-old Calgarian.

"It kept us together even when we were at our worst," he said. "It forced us to work things out. We really had no choice.

"I think last year we felt like we were improving as a team but our results were awful. This year, it's nice because we still feel we're climbing up the ladder but we have some results to back it up.

"That's encouraging."

But it's a tough field, laden with heavyweights such as Ferbey and fellow Edmontonian Kevin Martin, Winnipeg's Pat Stoughton and Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont. -- all considered contenders for the Olympic spot.

Morris won't be taking any of the other nine teams lightly.

"There are no real weak teams," he said. "Every game is going to be a challenge. It's going to be the team that will be most consistent and gets hot at the right times."


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