Changes afoot for qualifying process

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

HALIFAX -- Many have questioned whether a team that finishes third at a national championship actually deserves a berth in the Canadian Curling Trials where the country's elite compete for a trip to the Olympics.

Others have suggested that the qualifying process has been unfair to both Alberta's Randy Ferbey and Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones, who had essentially earned more than one spot into this year's trials.

But that is all about to change for the next quadrennial. First, the fields will be reduced to eight men's and eight women's teams from 10 each, Warren Hansen, the Canadian Curling Association's manager of event operations and media relations, said yesterday.

Shaving the fields allows arenas to cut down from five sheets to four, trimming the problems of preparing five sheets and making room for more cameras as the CCA expects more of these games to be televised during the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials.

The qualifying process will likely be changed to award such squads as Ferbey and Jones byes into the trials should they qualify more than once again. The CCA will also look to award the top foursome on the Canadian Team Ranking System over four years, such as Alberta's Kevin Martin, Hansen said.

Likely the last four in the final four would be determined by a qualifying spiel, which would allow the hottest teams on the circuit -- such as Ontario's Wayne Middaugh this year -- to qualify.

The final decision will be announced by April 2006 at the latest and February 2006 at the earliest. Hansen would prefer to announce it during the Brier so teams will know what they are playing for by that time.

The trials will still be held just before the 2010 Olympics, not a full year ahead as some have suggested, Hansen said.

COLLEEN UPSET: Transplanted Manitoban Kelly Scott stole a single in the 10th end to upset Nova Scotia's living legend Colleen Jones 7-6 yesterday morning.

"You have to play your best against them and I think we played pretty solid," said Scott, who is skipping a B.C. squad here. "It means a bit of confidence. We played well and feel very comfortable on the ice. Hopefully, we can just keep rolling with that momentum that we gained on this win."

Jones rebounded with an 11-7 victory over Quebec's winless Marie-France Larouche.

"This is all about building momentum," Jones said. "It's not about starting hot and finishing cold."

In other morning games, Stefanie Lawton blasted fellow Saskatchewanian Jan Betker 9-2, Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink clobbered Larouche 9-1 and Sherry Middaugh defeated fellow Ontarian Jo-Ann Rizzo 9-5.

GOOD VIBES: With Russ Howard calling the shots and throwing second stones, Newfoundland's Brad Gushue opened the trials with 9-7 triumph over Ontario's Glenn Howard (Russ's brother).

"There's been so much skepticism about our team and to come out here and beat one of the favourites, it probably shows a few people that maybe our chemistry isn't that bad," Gushue said.

"If we make the playoffs, it's probably at (Glenn's) expense," Russ sympathized.

"I've just got to get a lot sharper, I didn't play very well," Glenn admitted.

In the other men's games, Shawn Adams downed Mark Dacey 8-5 in an encounter of Nova Scotians; Pat Ryan beat Jay Peachey 7-4 in a battle of B.C. squads; and Kevin Martin bettered Randy Ferbey 8-5 in a clash of heavyweight Albertans.


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