Curlers Kevin Martin and John Morris have stepped out of their respective comfort zones in hopes of being in the Olympic zone in 2010.
How their new team performs this weekend in Waterloo will help them know what zone they're in.
Edmonton skip Martin, along with Morris at vice and a youthful front end of Marc Kennedy at second and Ben Hebert at lead, takes on John Base's team this afternoon in their first round-robin game in the World Curling Tour's Home Hardware Masters of Curling. It's the first of the tour's four Grand Slam events, featuring 18 of the top teams in the world on arena ice.
In April, Martin parted ways with Don Walchuk, Carter Rycroft and Don Bartlett. The foursome had been together for seven seasons, and came within a too-heavy draw of Olympic gold in 2002, but Bartlett's back woes prevent him from playing a full competitive schedule.
"We're still very good friends," Martin said of his former teammates, all of whom will be competing in Waterloo.
Morris, 27, had been a skip since he was throwing Little Rocks, but with the lure of the Olympics, he changed positions to become part of Martin's team.
The combination of a veteran strategist and young shot-makers has led a lot of curling teams to success. The Randy Ferbey-David Nedohin team won four Briers in five years. Russ Howard helped Brad Gushue win Olympic gold in February. This fall, Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk has come out of retirement and won five WCT events with a young team.
"Our game is so complex," Martin said. "How many chess masters are 25? It makes a whole lot of sense."
Martin's team has won four WCT events this season but hasn't reached a semi-final in its past three events.
The first round-robin games of the Grand Slam event were held last night, with Glenn Howard beating Ontario rival Wayne Middaugh 4-3.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals are on Saturday, with the final Sunday afternoon.