Brooks brings in big guns of curling

TODD SAELHOF

, Last Updated: 5:23 AM ET

Call it an Olympic preview of sorts.

That's because no less than six men's teams heading to the 2010 Vancouver Games will take part in the Brooks Cactus Pheasant Classic.

"We'll have the international flavour of seven teams -- six representing their countries at the Olympics and probably the team that will represent Canada," said event chair Lawrence Block of the $70,000 World Curling Tour event, which comes out of the hack Thursday and runs through Sunday. "It'll be incredible to have them here.

"It's a good indication that we're doing something right."

He's certainly got that right.

In only its third year, the Cactus Pheasant Classic is enjoying incredible success. Block and his committee have put together a can't-miss spiel on the WCT schedule, thanks to homework completed before the event kicked off two years ago.

"We talked to Kevin Martin and asked him, 'How do we get you down here to Brooks?' " Block said. "The first words out of his mouth were, 'Good rocks and good ice.' So we've got (premier icemaker) Mark Shurek coming to do our ice, and we're bringing in rocks -- the best we can get -- from elsewhere.

"The curlers love us because we treat them like rock stars and we listen to them -- curlers start contacting me in April to get into the event. And the community absolutely loves the event."

Each of the last two years, the Cactus Pheasant has attracted no more than two international rinks, but with this year's Olympics close at hand, the spiel has drawn Thomas Dufour (France), Niklas Edin (Sweden), Fengchun Wang (China), John Shuster (U.S.), Ralph Stoeckli (Switzerland), Claudio Pescia (Switzerland) and defending world champion David Murdoch (Scotland).

All but Pescia have won berths into the Olympic to represent their respective nations.

"This being an Olympic year and because of the World Cup (over the weekend) in Mississauga, those teams don't like to come over for just one event, so they make it a tour," Block said. "Chances are the Olympic champion will be playing here."

That's especially likely since nearly all the top Canadian contenders will take in the triple-knockout format. In fact, only two of the 16 Olympic pre-trials or trials rinks -- Brad Gushue and Jean-Michel Menard -- will be absent from the Cactus Pheasant.

"It's 13 of the best 16 curlers you'll see before the Olympics," said Block of the event. "And we have the Cactus Patch, where we like to party."

Extra ends

Four Calgary men's rinks took in the $34,000 Kamloops Crown of Curling. Brent Bawel made yesterday's semi-finals, where he lost to Edmonton's Chris Schille 7-0. Steve Petryk beat B.C.'s Greg McAulay in an 'A' event final to make yesterday's playoff round but lost to Edmonton's Ted Appelman in a quarter-final. Dean Ross finished with a 2-3 record, while Terry Meek stumbled to a 1-3 mark at the 22-rink spiel ... Kevin Martin's Edmonton rink, with Calgarians John Morris and Ben Hebert, fell short of the final won by rival Glenn Howard at the Grey Power World Cup of Curling in Mississauga, Ont. Martin and Co. were eliminated by Newfoundland's Brad Gushue 8-2 in a Saturday semi-final after the defending Canadian champions went a perfect 6-0 in the roundrobin of the high-profile, 14-team WCT event ... Calgary's Cheryl Bernard made the playoffs but promptly lost a quarter-final draw yesterday at the $60,000 Manitoba Lotteries Women's Curling Classic in Winnipeg. After going 4-1 in the 32-team, triple-knockout event, Bernard and Co. beat Winnipeg's Lisa Blixhavn 5-1 in a 'B' final to make yesterday's championship round, but Edmonton's Heather Nedohin knocked them out in the 5-3 elimination match ... Fellow Calgarians Crystal Webster and Heather Rankin were both unable to qualify for yesterday's playoffs at the Manitoba Lotteries Women's Curling Classic. Webster and her crew struggled losing all three draws they played in, while Rankin finished 3-3 but fell short of the playoffs after losing 6-5 to Winnipeg's Barb Spencer in the 'C' event ... Okotoks' Shannon Kleibrink played in the Three Nations Cup in Mississauga, Ont., playing a unique four-team spiel against Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton, Scotland's Eve Muirhead and China's Bingyu Wang. Kleibrink beat Wang 6-3 in Sunday's consolation final, while Muirhead won the championship final 9-3 over Lawton.

Last rock

On the women's WCT schedule this week are the 2009 Stockholm Ladies' Cup in Sweden and the $35,000 Colonial Square Ladies' Classic in Saskatoon.

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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