Balderston gets back into curling provincials

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

Kurt Balderston not only earned a bit of redemption for his team and made a bit of history. He believes he struck up a victory for curling's little guys.

For the first time since the 12-team format was instituted for the Alberta men's curling championship, there will be three Peace District teams at the event.

Balderston, who's been on the losing end of four provincial finals, grabbed one of two Alberta Tour sports for the Feb. 12-17 provincial at Spruce Grove.

His team was the top points earner on the Tour this season after losing the semifinal of this past weekend's Grande Prairie spiel to Edmonton's James Pahl, who earned enough points to grab the other bye to the provincial.

Defending champ Kevin Martin and CTRS points leader Randy Ferbey had already pre-qualified.

"We finally got there," said Balderston, who lost Alberta finals to Ferbey in 2002 and 2004 and twice to Kevin Martin in 1992-93. "That (2007 provincial) was the first time in 10 years we didn't get through the playdowns after missing the Alberta Tour spot by one point."

Balderston is keenly aware that teams from the isolated district to the northwest of Edmonton are not regarded as highly as the Edmonton-area teams.

"Winning Red Deer (in early November) for us was big," said Balderston, "If we'd just won the Peace spiels, then people would say we backed in without playing against the better teams. I'm glad we didn't come in through the back door by not qualifying and hoping for other teams to get it done for you."

Balderston's record shows him it's important for Peace teams to play against the tougher competition.

"I think we've shown, by being to four finals, we can compete with any teams out there," said Balderston. "You have to get there (provincials) to know what it's all about."

Now that the team will not have to go through the playdowns grind, the biggest challenge Balderston will have over the next two months will be getting into enough top-quality games. Because of work and family commitments, the team is unable to play in the Canada Cup qualifier next week at the Saville Centre.

Meanwhile, the Jan. 23-27 women's provincial at Wainwright has also filled out its four pre-qualifier spots.

Defending champion Cheryl Bernard and 2006-07 CTRS leader Shannon Kleibrink were already in.

Cathy King, who lost last year's final to Bernard, qualified as this season's top CTRS team. Faye White beat Chana Martineau to claim the other spot in a winner-take-all final at the Boundary Ford Classic in Lloydminster yesterday.


Photos