Rankin takes aim at Olympic trials

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

Heather Rankin is all too familiar with the super-curling competition of southern Alberta.

There's Shannon Kleibrink, the 2009 top-ranked curler in the country, and Cheryl Bernard, the defending Alberta champion.

While both are among favourites to represent Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Rankin's been right there with them week-in and week-out for decades.

So it would seem fitting for her to be up against them once again when it matters most -- when the Games representative is determined at the 2009 Roar of the Rings Olympic Curling Trials, Dec. 6-13 in Edmonton.

"It's awesome to be a Calgary women's player with all the success here," Rankin said. "A lot of that has to do with the example Shannon and Cheryl have given our sport in southern Alberta. To be able to play against the top teams in our country every week is great. Cheryl, Shannon and Crystal (Webster) -- all four of us play scratch games against each other, and we make each of us better.

"At the end of the day, if any of the four of us wins (at the Roar of the Rings), I'll be happy."

Bernard and Kleibrink already have an inside edge on Rankin and Webster in pursuit of the single Olympic berth, as they are skips of two of the four women's foursomes which have already qualified for the Roar of the Rings.

Beginning today at the 2009 Road to the Roar Olympic Pre-Trials in Prince George, B.C., a dozen women's teams -- including those led by Rankin and Webster -- vie for four additional spots at the Olympic Trials.

For Rankin, the timing of the two events in the Olympic qualification process couldn't come at a better time.

"In November, we're always shining. It's after Christmas when we've struggled," Rankin said. "I'm a November-December skip, so I'm very excited about the time of the trials."

The Calgary Curling Club skip and her crew heads into today's opening draw in Prince George ranked fifth among the field's 12 rinks.

"I've always had an early-peaking team," said Rankin, 43, who is flanked by fiery third Lisa Eyamie and a youthful, enthusiastic front end of second Heather Jensen and lead Kyla MacLachlan.

"And this year, we have a new coach, John Hamm, who's one of the strongest technical coaches in Canada, helping us. He's been working us like dogs. We're just trying to strip down and build up so we're peaking at the right time."

EXTRA ENDS

Shannon Kleibrink reached yesterday's final of the $34,000 Red Deer Curling Classic before losing 8-7 in extra ends to Jennifer Jones. Kleibrink posted a 7-2 record en route to the championship draw. Fellow Calgary super-curler Cheryl Bernard went 3-3, losing in an 'A' semi-final to Switzerland's Silvana Tirinzoni. Other city curlers at the 32-team World Curling Tour event included Nadine Chyz, Krista Crowther and Maria Bushell. Both Chyz and Crowther finished with 2-3 marks, and Bushell went 1-3 ... Kevin Martin's rink, with Calgarians John Morris and Ben Hebert, triumphed yesterday a 6-3 final over Manitoba's Dave Boehmer at the $50,0000 White's Drug Store Classic in Swan River, Man. ... Of seven local men's rinks competing at the $32,000 Red Deer Curling Classic, only Steve Petryk made the playoffs, where he was eliminated by Red Deer's Rob Armitage in a 10-5 semi-final yesterday. Dean Ross went 4-3, while Brent Bawel and Terry Meek both finished 3-3, Aaron Sluchinksi was 2-3 and Don DeLair was 1-3.

LAST ROCK

Aside from Heather Rankin and Crystal Webster, the other rinks competing in Prince George for the four remaining spots at the Olympic Trials are skipped by Kelly Scott, Sherry Middaugh, Marie-France Larouche, Michelle Englot, Rachel Homan, Cathy King, Krista McCarville, Amber Holland, Eve Belisle and Sherry Anderson. The Pre-Trials end Saturday.

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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