Mystery woman

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

REGINA -- Amber Holland is the mystery woman of the Roar of the Rings.

You've heard of her. But you just can't put a face to her.

She's a real regular at the pay windows on the World Curling Tour. But she hasn't been a regular on TV.

The Regina skip has never made it to the Scotties. Not one. And that's rather remarkable since she came out of junior as a world silver medal winner in 1992.

HIGHLY REGARDED

Holland is one of the most highly regarded skips in women's curling. But no Scotties and only one appearance in a Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials, that one being here at home eight years ago where she was a disappointing 4-5.

She won the Player's Championship to wrap up the 2008 season. She opened this season with an undefeated run through the Schmirler Classic here and will come to Edmonton either second or third on this year's money list.

"I wouldn't call myself a money curler," says the 35-year old who does make her living from the sport, being the executive director of the Saskatchewan Curling Association by day.

"I have had success with my teams on the cash circuit because you play multiple events over multiple years. The provincial Scotties is a one-time event, once a year, and in Saskatchewan it's not that easy to get out of the province. I have lost the semifinal in the province four times."

It's not about the money.

"We play on the tour to gain experience and to work on developing as a team. It's not about winning cash. Going to the Olympics has been our goal. All of the events leading up to that are the means to that end.

"I'd rather be known as an Olympian. For sure. No doubt. All athletes would love to be described as an Olympian."

Holland remembers where she was when Saskatchewan's Sandra Schmirler won Olympic gold at Nagano 1998.

"I was actually at a friend's house having some beverages and playing cards. It was really early in the morning.

"I remember when they came back to play in the Scotties in Regina and I remember it being very emotional for the team and for the fans in the arena the first time they walked in to play.

"As always, in Saskatchewan, fans get excited and want to be part of the success so the atmosphere was very electric."

Holland, who didn't qualify for the Roar four years ago -- although she was picked up as a fifth by Sherry Anderson -- put together a new team for this Olympic quadrennial and definitely has it going.

"I wouldn't call it a rebirth. Yes, I'm getting older. Of course, I got wiser. As a team, we may not be as experienced as some. I haven't played in the Olympic trials since 2001. But I think I'm more prepared now.

"I put the team together in 2005. I wanted to create a team with some younger players that would be committed to working toward the Olympic and national goals.

"I had played so many years with older players that taught me a lot about the game that I wanted to take that knowledge and give back to some younger players and build a team.

"After four seasons together we have all sacrificed a lot and worked hard to be the best players and team. We are all very close on and off the ice. We have become good friends and hang out together all year round," she said of third Kim Schneider, second Tammy Schneider and lead Heather Kalenchuk, an Edmonton native.

"Heather and I live in Regina and Kim and Tammy live in Kronau which is about a 13-minute drive outside Regina. We play Super League there and practise there as well."

Holland laughs that they may not be the most interesting team to the ticket-buying public heading to Edmonton, but they're one of the hottest.

"We aren't flashy. We aren't controversial. We're just a team that loves to play the game and goes out on the ice and gets the job done.

PAYING OFF

"I think our team is playing well and all the hard work we have put in to being consistent and minimizing mistakes is paying off. The timing of all that to come together for us is working out."

So finally the mystery woman and her team is going to get some serious TSN time and play in front of thousands of fans.

"We knew getting to Edmonton meant TV and big crowds. We're aware of it. But we're not focusing on it.

"And the rocks don't know they're on TV or how many fans are in the stands."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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