Howard humbles world champ

GEORGE KARRYS, SPECIAL TO SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

"It's massive."

That's how three-time world champion skip Glenn Howard describes the chance to curl at the Olympic Winter Games.

"The Olympics are the pinnacle of curling," Howard declared.

"It's bigger than the Brier, it's bigger than the worlds. The bottom line is the entire world is watching, and it's only every four years."

Howard and his Coldwater, Ont., squad are 4-0 at the Grey Power World Cup of Curling at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. Among their three wins yesterday were an 8-3 victory over defending world champion David Murdoch of Scotland and a 4-1 triumph over defending Olympic champion Brad Gushue.

The five-day curlfest, which wraps up on Sunday, is an Olympic primer pitting five of Canada's top Olympic men's hopefuls against all nine world teams that already have qualified for Vancouver 2010.

Howard third Richard Hart, who resides in Pickering, has been to the five-ring circus before.

Hart previously played third for the Mike Harris team, the unsung Toronto gang that shocked an all-star field at the 1997 Olympic Trials to win the trip to Nagano, Japan in 1998.

"We were young and confident, and we were on a roll," Hart recalled. "We rolled all the way to the (Olympic) final before we lost.

"Things are different now. Glenn and I are the veterans, and we've got these young guys (Brent Laing and Craig Savill).

"We're one of the top teams, we're a favourite to win."

FOUR PROVINCIAL TITLES

The squad has won four consecutive Ontario titles, the 2007 world championship, and have made it to the Brier final in three out of the past four years.

But the legacy of Canada's men's Olympic curling team resembles a dark horse.

In addition to Harris, few expected Gushue, of Newfoundland and Labrador, to win the 2005 Trials, this despite the last-minute addition of veteran Russ Howard, Glenn's older brother, to the squad.

That addition led to an Olympic trip to Italy, and solid gold.

Kevin Martin's silver-laden visit to Salt Lake City in 2002 marks the only time one of the "favoured" teams has captured the Trials.

"Favourites don't always win," Howard acknowledged. "It seems to happen more at the Trials. We just try to play consistently, all the time, at a high level. You really can't do much else."

Upsets have occurred at the World Cup, too.

Murdoch is 0-3 after an 8-3 loss to Ulrik Schmidt of Denmark.

Sweden's Niklas Edin stole four points to defeat Edmonton's Randy Ferbey 8-3, less than a day after losing 9-1 to Ferbey's cross-town rival, Kevin Martin.

Gushue had dropped to 0-2 with early losses to John Shuster of the United States and Germany's Andy Kapp before rebounding with a extra-end win over Ralph Stoeckli of Switzerland yesterday afternoon.

Martin leads Pool A with a 4-0 record, while Howard was alone atop Pool B at 4-0.


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