Olympic dreamin'

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

The best curlers in the world will descend on the MTS Centre this week and there will be more at stake than the $100,000 up for grabs.

Most competitors will be competing at the BDO Classic Canadian Open with visions of curling at the Olympics dancing in their heads. Or, at least, the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials.

"Certainly, there is an added importance to it because of teams needing (Canadian Team Ranking System) points for the drive to an Olympic trials spot," Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk said yesterday. "And we're right in the mix."

There are seven teams, including Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton, who are in the race for the last two direct routes into the trials, and they will all be competing here this week.

Kevin Koe leads that version of the CTRS points race with a three-year total of 460.485 points, with fellow Albertan Randy Ferbey right on his heels at 434.169. If either one wins two of the remaining major events, he will get one of those available spots because both have won a major event during the last two years.

"There's only four or five major events left and we'll have to do as well as we can in each one because we're neck-in-neck with four or five other teams," Burtnyk said. "And we can only control what we can do."

With 345.560 points, Stoughton has the best chance to catch either Ferbey or Koe for one of the coveted direct trips to the trials.

"The only way we have a chance is if we're in the Brier so the provincial championship will be huge," he said. "We have to hope that Koe, Ferbey and Burtnyk don't win and we do.

"But we're in the pre-trials qualifier anyway."

Saskatchewan's Pat Simmons, Ontario's Wayne Middaugh and Newfoundland's Brad Gushue are the other teams in the race.

All but Gushue have officially qualified for the pre-trials spiel where four more trials teams will be determined in Prince George, B.C., Nov. 10-15.

The winner of this week's Grand Slam will earn 36 points.

"It's always about the money," Stoughton joked. "If you win the money, the points will come."

Both Alberta's reigning world champion Kevin Martin and Ontario's Glenn Howard, who will also be here, have already earned direct paths to the Olympic trials, which will be held in Edmonton, Dec. 6-13.

Both Gushue and Manitoba's Mike McEwen are shoo-ins to be heading to Prince George.

"It looks like we're pretty safe," McEwen conceded. "So, I wouldn't say we're in a desperate need right now. But we definitely want to show everybody in Winnipeg that we could be very good reps if we win the province and show that we're right there with these great teams.

"I'm excited to play in front of a hometown crowd with lots of people in the arena. I don't recall ever playing in an atmosphere like that."

Manitoba's Reid Carruthers will also be part of the show, with B.C.'s Bob Ursel and Greg McAulay, Norway's Thomas Ulsrud, Scotland's Tom Brewster, USA's Pete Fenson, Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard and Saskatchewan's Joel Jordison rounding out the field.

The first draw is tomorrow at 8 p.m.

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CTRS Points

Race for two remaining direct paths to the 2009 Canadian Curling Trials

Team Points

1. Kevin Koe, Alberta 460.485

2. Randy Ferbey, Alberta 434.169

3. Jeff Stoughton, Manitoba 345.560

4. Pat Simmons, Saskatchewan 304.225

5. Kerry Burtnyk, Manitoba 289.075

6. Wayne Middaugh, Ontario 285.645

7. Brad Gushue, Newfoundland 247.977

-- Source: Canadian Curling Association website


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