Kleibrink forgoes playdowns

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

Does it get any bigger than representing Canada at the Winter Olympics?

Shannon Kleibrink's curling rink says it doesn't.

So, Kleibrink, third Amy Nixon, second Glenys Bakker and lead Christine Keshen left the district playdowns behind to be in Halifax, where they're among 10 teams seeking the Canadian berth in Turin, Italy, Feb. 10-26.

"Olympics only come every four years," said Kleibrink, who's been twice to the national Scott Tournament of Hearts but has yet to win.

"The Scott comes every year. I'd give up playdowns every year for the opportunity to play at the Olympics."

This could be one of the toughest fields the Kleibrink foursome has ever faced -- pundits consider the women's trials title to be anyone's.

There are still the favourites, such as six-time Scott champ Colleen Jones of Halifax, three-time world champ Jan Betker of Regina and world junior champs Kelly Scott of Kelowna and Marie-France Larouche of Ste-Foy, Que.

In the opening draw yesterday, Kleibrink easily handled Larouche with a 9-1 victory before falling 9-8 to Scott in an extra end.

Don't forget, Kleibrink has a major title of her own -- the 2005 Canada Cup, when she knocked off Betker 7-6.

And while not ignoring the implications of victory in Halifax, they're looking upon the event as just another spiel.

"It's certainly the biggest goal we've ever played for," said the 43-year-old Bakker.

"We try not to look at that as a form of pressure. It's certainly exciting, that's for sure. You've gotta keep the picture really small. You can't think about what you're playing for, otherwise you'll be bottom of the pack."

If there's any pressure on the Kleibrink crew to perform well, the 27-year-old Nixon said it comes from within.

"Pressure really is what you put on yourself," she said.

"Any time we play in a major event we want to win it, so it's no different this time."

The foursome didn't make too much noise on the 2005 Ultima World Curling Tour but it is still second in the Canadian Team Ranking System standings. More importantly, the women are feeling more prepared than ever.

"It's a combination of having a few years to know we're going," said Nixon, noting the team earned its trials berth as the 2004 CTRS leaders.

"We've had time to do different things, like practise. It's different than if you win provincials and have only a few weeks or a month to prepare for nationals."


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