Trial run for Olympics

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

For Manitoba's reigning junior women's Canadian champion Kaitlyn Lawes, it will be the next best thing to competing at the Winter Olympics.

Lawes will represent Canada at the 2009 World Junior Curling Championships that start in Vancouver tomorrow.

"We're a trial run for the Olympics," said Lawes, who left yesterday. "They're using the same venue (Vancouver Olympic Centre), the same long schedule and even the same drivers that will be at the Olympics.

"I'm getting very excited. I'm really looking forward to getting out there. I'm getting a little impatient."

Lawes won the bronze medal at last year's worlds in Sweden.

"This is just going to be a totally different environment because it's in our home country and we know what to expect with our food and where we're staying," said Lawes, supported by third Jenna Loder and a new front end of Laryssa Grenkow and Breanne Meakin. "Last year, it was a strange environment, the main choice of meat was reindeer and my hotel room was the size of my bathroom at home.

"But we're going to be so determined and it's going to be so exciting to have fans cheering for us instead of against us and we're so excited to have that Maple Leaf on our backs. But just because we're from Canada doesn't mean we'll win. We'll have to work for it."

A number of friends, family and even volunteer drivers are making the trip to Vancouver from here.

"There's actually lots of friends and family coming out for the whole two weeks so people out there will really be cheering hard for us so, it will be fun," Loder said.

"Hopefully, the fans will help us through the tough games," said Meakin. "Personally, I won't feel pressure but there might be some on us."

Both Meakin and Grenkow will be making their first trips to a world championship.

"I'm very excited," said Meakin. "I don't know what to expect yet but it's going to be far beyond my expectations."

Grenkow readily admitted that she is nervous on the eve of competition.

"It's a lot to take in and I'm really excited," she said. "It's overwhelming. It's different because I don't really know what to expect.

"We're at the Olympic venue so that's going to be exciting in itself. And there's a little bit of pressure because we are Team Canada but I think, if we can stay focused, we'll do well."

The fact that Lawes and Loder have been there before should help.

"It will be really fun and exciting to play in Canada and have a little bit more of an advantage than we had last year," said Loder, who is fighting a cold. "We're not going into it blind so me and Kaitlyn will be a little bit more prepared and can help the other girls out."

Scotland's Eva Muirhead will be seeking her third straight gold medal before representing her country at the women's world championship in Gangneung, South Korea later this month.

Last year, Lawes said her foursome had peaked at the nationals and did not play as well at the worlds.

"Our season's been different this year and we've built out of every event," said Lawes, who is in her last year of junior. "But this is the best we've been throwing rocks all year so we're really looking forward to it."

P.E.I.'s Brett Gallant is Canada's junior men's rep.


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