Long season takes its toll

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Whoever thinks professional curling isn't a grind should talk to Cheryl Bernard.

The Calgary skip is winding up a hectic season this week at the $200,000 Players Championship at the Corral and admitted she and her rink were burned out after a long season, which included the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in February.

"It's been a long year -- I think we're at 110 games -- so we took an entire week off and didn't even look at curling," said Bernard, who beat Renelle Bryden 11-3 last night to open the triple-knockout championship, which is part of the World Curling Tour's Grand Slam.

"I was hitting golf balls in Phoenix and it was great not to think about curling because we were just mentally tired.

"So we figured we'd just start all over like it was the begining of the year."

It's a good way to look at it and it could pay off for Bernard, third Susan O'Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire and lead Cori Bartel as there's plenty on the line this week for the top 32 mens and women's curling teams on the WCT.

On the line in the season-ending event is a berth in the 2010 Winter Olympic trials, $25,000 prize money and Olympic funding for training and competition from Own the Podium 2010.

For Bernard and Co., it's all about that all-important Olympic berth and a chance to play in front of a home crowd in Vancouver.

With the Olympics still three years away, Bernard and her team learned some lessons about keeping long and short-term goals in perspective.

"Off season we look at the long term but when we're curling we look at the short, short term, from shot to shot, because we got caught a couple of times trying to look ahead but there's too many good teams out there to be looking ahead," said Bernard, who was beaten at the Scotties in a tiebreaker by PEI's Suzanne Gaudet.

"So we work with our sports psychologist on long term and, when we're curling, it sounds corny but it's shot to shot."

Last night was a relatively easy win for Bernard, especially after Bryden's final stone in the seventh end sailed through the house -- with five Bernard rocks lurking there -- and the Calgarian scored six in the end, prompting the players to shake hands.

"Renelle's team didn't play like they normally can but it was nice to get out there with a win," said Bernard, who has played eight WCT tour events with one win and $29,800 in earnings.

"The ice is really good and Mark (Shurek) makes amazing ice."

Another Calgary rink enjoying the ice was that of Shannon Kleibrink, who downed fellow Calgarian Heather Rankin 8-2.

The late women's draws weren't over at press time last night.

The 16-team men's draw, featuring the likes of defending champion Randy Ferby, current world champ Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin, begins today at 11 a.m., while the women resume at 8:30 a.m.


Videos

Photos