Getting into the Olympic Trials

CON GRIWKOWSKY

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

There's more than one way to get into the Olympic Trials.

Even though the Canadian Teams Ranking System was designed to identify the teams most worthy of representing Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, there were other ways for the best teams to avoid this week's pre-Trials event at Prince George.

When the 16-team qualifying format was set up, provisions for half the Roar of the Rings field were in place.

Any team that won three major curling events -- the Brier/Scotties, the world championship, the Canada Cup of Curling or the Players Championship -- could claim a Trials berth. Those events are considered to be the toughest on the curling calendar's schedule where teams could prove their mettle against the toughest competition possible.

Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., was first in, then Kevin Martin led a contingent of three Edmonton teams to qualify for their hometown event. Randy Ferbey completed his trifecta with a win at the Players Championship in Grande Prairie earlier this year. The men's field was rounded out by Kevin Koe, curling's most consistent CTRS team over the past two seasons.

Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg skipped the only women's team that qualified based on its on-ice dominance in the designated events.

Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink and Cheryl Bernard, along with Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton were slotted into Edmonton through various CTRS paths.

The difference in the way the rest of the world qualifies their teams for the Olympics compared to Canada was emphasized at the World Cup of Curling held in Toronto in late October.

All four pre-qualfied men's teams, along with 2006 gold medallist Brad Gushue, represented Canada in the season's first Grand Slam event. Even though there was some grumbling among other teams that were denied an opportunity to play in the event, it did point out a difference.

The rest of the field was made up by the nine teams who will represent their respective countries at the Vancouver Olympics and the key point is that the lineup of those teams have been know for some time.

Since the rest of the world cannot match the depth of Canadian curling, they went about naming their national teams in different ways that would never fly in Canada or countries with a curling tradition.

Many of the newer curling nations are attempting to close the gap by putting together all-star teams who are made up of de-facto professionals who are paid by their respective Olympic national associations to train year-round.

Martin has pointed out more than one occasion that the international opposition is becoming much tougher and that nostalgic Canadian curling fans who remember a time when Canda was heads and shoulders above the rest of the world have memories from a fading time.

There has been some questions about the timing of the Trials and it's been suggested a team that qualifies for the Olympics in December needs more than a two-month lead-in time to properly prepare for the big event.

Although Canada has brought home only two gold medals in the three Olympics since curling became a full-medal sport, experience could play a vital role in this country's fortunes at Vancouver.

Kleibrink came home with a bronze medal from the 2006 Olympics. Jones has won three Scotties and one world championship.

Edmonton fans will remember Howard's amazing performance at Rexall Place when he won the world championship in 2007. Martin already has an Olympic silver medal, has won the Brier the last two years and grabbed his first-ever world championship title in 2008.

Ferbey won three world championships this decade.

But history has shown it's not always the big names who represent this country at the Olympics. Just ask Brad Gushue, the 2006 gold medallist who's banging it out at the pre-Trials event in Prince George this weekend.

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Field of dreams

MEN

Pre-qualified for Roar of the Rings

- Kevin Martin, Edmonton

- Glenn Howard, Coldwater, ON

- Randy Ferbey, Edmonton

- Kevin Koe, Edmonton

Pre-trials teams (four advance to Roar of the Rings)

- Jeff Stoughton, Winnipeg

- Wayne Middaugh, Victoria Harbour, ON

- Brad Gushue, St. John's, NL

- Mike McEwen, Winnipeg

- Kerry Burtnyk, Winnipeg

- Joel Jordison, Moose Jaw

- Jean-Michel Menard, Gatineau, PQ

- Ted Appelman, Edmonton

- Bob Ursel, Kelowna, BC

- Pat Simmons, Moose Jaw, SK

- Greg McAulay, New Westminster, BC

- Jason Gunnlaugson, Winnipeg

WOMEN

Pre-qualified for Roar of the Rings

- Jennifer Jones, Winnipeg

- Shannon Kleibrink, Calgary

- Cheryl Bernard, Calgary

- Stefanie Lawton, Saskatoon

Pre-trials teams (four advance to Roar of the Rings)

- Kelly Scott, Kelowna, BC

- Sherry Middaugh, Victoria Harbour, ON

- Marie-France Larouche, Levis, PQ

- Michelle Englot, Regina

- Heather Rankin, Calgary

- Rachel Homan, Ottawa

- Crystal Webster, Calgary

- Cathy King, Edmonton

- Krista McCarville, Thunder Bay

- Amber Holland, Regina

- Sherry Anderson, Saskatoon

- Eve Belisle, Montreal

Canada atthe Games

MEN

Demonstration

- 1988 Calgary: Ed Lukowich, bronze

- 1992 Albertville: Kevin Martin, fourth

Full-medal

- 1998 Nagano: Mike Harris, silver

- 2002 Salt Lake City: Kevin Martin, silver

- 2006 Torino: Brad Gushe, gold

WOMEN

Demonstration

- 1988 Calgary: Linda Moore, gold

- 1992 Albertville: Julie Sutton, fourth

Full-medal

- 1998 Nagano: Sandra Schmirler, gold

- 2002 Salt Lake City: Kelley Law, bronze

- 2006 Torino: Shannon Kleibrink, bronze


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