Hurry too hard

ANGELA MACISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It isn't the Olympic trials system that's flawed. It's the timing. Imagine, for a moment, the schedule endured by the Brad Gushue and Shannon Kleibrink foursomes from the second their last rocks came to rest in Halifax in December.

Whisked away to doping control and then to a Canadian Curling Association reception feting their victories.

Sent home for a brief respite to enjoy the Christmas holidays with their families, people they would hardly see for the next two months.

Training, practising, training, practising.

A bonspiel in Switzerland. More training, more practising.

The Kleibrink team had receptions and fundraisers in Calgary.

Off to the Canada Cup in Kamloops, B.C., where they fell under the microscope of curling fans from sea to shining sea. Neither team made the playoffs there.

And then one more day to breathe before they packed up for Turin, Italy.

All the while trying to focus on what everyone wants from their trip: Gold.

Now imagine if the CCA held the trials in April or May.

That gives the nation's Olympic representatives an entire summer to mentally absorb the task they will undertake, plus the whole cashspiel season to work out the kinks and be at their very best.

Kevin Martin, silver medallist at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, can empathize. At times, he has been critical of the trials qualifying system, which gave berths to event runners-up, but he's happy to see the CCA is changing the process.

Now if he could just convince them to give the teams more time.

"Two months is too tight," he said. "Right around Christmas, it's tough anyways just to get ready. As far as our training, we were prepared that way.

"But in that short amount of time, getting the outside stuff ready -- like accommodations for family -- friends and sponsors, that type of stuff takes a lot of time."

He should know. He's already been down the Olympics road twice -- in 1992 at Albertville, where curling was still a demonstration sport, and in 2002.

By the time he was heading to Utah, he, third Don Walchuk, second Carter Rycroft and lead Don Bartlett were well prepared.

"We started training hard and being ready in early April of the previous year," Martin said. "By the time we got to trials -- we won and that was great -- but we were already ready. It was no different this season. We had the full program ready to go to Italy. We just failed to go. But we were prepared had we have gone.

"A lot of the teams who haven't been there, I'm not sure it's their fault but how could they know what to do? We don't really help them in that regard."

Funds could be allocated, he suggested, to hire someone to help organize the team's lives beyond the training.

It's imperative, though, the trials are held far more in advance of the Olympic games.

"We need to give (our teams) more than two months to train properly," Martin said. "The two teams are very good and deserved to go but they don't have a lot of international experience."

But the two teams are hanging in, despite their lack of preparation. Both Gushue and Kleibrink won their final round-robin tilts yesterday to lock up spots in semifinal games.

Kleibrink will face Switzerland's Mirjam Ott tomorrow and Gushue takes on Pete Fenson of the U.S.

Martin likes Canada's chances of bringing home two gold medals.

"The ice looks like it's moving a little more and, if it does, I think Kleibrink can win gold. With (Russ) Howard holding the broom, I think Gushue is our best bet."

BACK IN THE NUDES: Boy, that naked curling calendar sure is catching some eyes during the Olympics. The Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar, featuring 12 curling hotties from around the world and distributed in North America by The Curling News, is featured in the March issue of Playboy and was mentioned on CNBC.

The bloggers at www.deadspin.com said: "I'll take the nude curlers over the SI Swimsuit Issue ... You can find scantily clad models anywhere. Finding a nude curler ... well, that's just not something you see every day."


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