Peaking at right time

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

Ideally, a curler would prefer to slide into such a major event on some kind of winning note.

But both Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk and Jeff Stoughton failed to even qualify at a World Curling Tour event in Brooks, Alta., last weekend -- on the eve of the Canadian Curling Trials qualifier to be played in Prince George, B.C. next week. But neither veteran seemed to be overly concerned.

"We had a great weekend before that in Portage (winning the WCT event) and basically, we've been working since the start of the year towards peaking at the trials," Burtnyk said yesterday. "I think we're kind of on track of where we'd like to be and we're really looking forward to next week."

Stoughton, who won a WCT spiel in Brandon last month, offered the same sort of sentiments.

"You always want to be playing well," conceded Stoughton, the No. 1 seed in the pre-trials. "Last weekend was just one of those things where we couldn't get anything going ... Our whole year has been focused on Prince George and maybe we were thinking ahead to Prince George because curling is like anything, you can actually peak at the right time and we want to semi-peak in Prince George and really peak in Edmonton in December, hopefully."

Both Burtnyk and Stoughton have been to the trials before. In fact, both have lost a trials final and are determined to get to another one.

Burtnyk, who has been seeded fifth in B.C., lost the 2001 final to Alberta's Kevin Martin.

"It's probably the single biggest moment, really, in my curling career," said Burtnyk, who has won two Brier titles and a world championship. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out the way I wanted but it was great to experience being that close, and it would be nice to get the chance to try it again."

It is the reason Burtnyk, who turns 51 this month, returned from a one-year retirement in 2005-06 and eventually formed the current squad of third Don Walchuk, second Richard Daneault and Garth Smith.

Stoughton, who has also won a world and two Brier titles, lost the 2005 trials final to Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, who would win Olympic gold.

Stoughton, 46, could erase that bitter memory by winning the trials in Edmonton -- should he get there.

"I'd love to get to the Olympics," said Stoughton, now supported by third Kevin Park, second Rob Fowler and Steve Gould. "I'd love to medal, I'd love to win a gold medal. But right now, we're not even close to being there yet. Once in a while, you do think about it and it's pretty damn exciting."

BITERS -- TSN will broadcast all qualifying games next week ... No Manitoba women's teams qualified for the pre-trials event.


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