Kleibrink still yearns for gold

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

CALGARY -- Four years ago in Italy Shannon Kleibrink won an Olympic bronze medal.

There's winning and then there's not losing. This, for a Canadian curling team at the Olympics, was viewed by many as not losing.

Kleibrink didn't become Sandra Schmirler, the curler who won gold for Canada at Nagano 1998. But she also didn't become the first Canadian not to win a curling medal at the Olympic Winter Games.

"That thought did cross my mind occasionally," the Calgary skip, who now lives in Okotoks, admitted when it was over.

Like Kelly Law four years earlier in Salt Lake, Kleibrink managed to at least bring back a medal, which was one up on Canada's men's hockey team who had lost out the night before.

Now, with third Amy Nixon and a new front end with Bronwen Webster and lead Chelsey Bell, replacing Glenys Bakker, and Christine Keshen, Kleibrink heads to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings in Edmonton with thoughts of what could have been and of what still could be.

Many forget Kleibrink was the skip of the trials team which lost the finals to Schmirler in 1997 and was the woman who stepped in to replace the late legend, skipping the rest of her team for an attempt to get back four years later.

It's been a fascinating road to get to the Roar of the Rings one more time for the three-time Alberta representative in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, who also earned a place in our country's curling history as the first woman to skip a team to the Canadian mixed championship.

"We lost the trials final to a better team in 1997 and I am so glad they went on to make Olympic history. That shot Sandra made in the seventh end of that game still gets replayed, as it was one of the best under-pressure shots ever made in women's curling," she said.

"It was an honour to be asked to play with Sandra's team," she said, simply, of taking over in an attempt to give them a second Olympic experience.

There are a lot of bronze medal winners in sports who years later say they go from treasuring the medal one day to thinking what could have been for years and years, but Kleibrink says it hasn't been that way for her.

"Not at all. Because I am still competing, I think of our Olympic bronze as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

"Regardless of whether or not we get a second chance at Olympic gold or not, I will always be grateful that I am an Olympic medallist, regardless of the colour."

Kleibrink says the team may be going into these Olympic trials with a new front end, but it doesn't feel that way.

"It's hard to think of Bronwen and Chelsey as 'a new front end' as we've been playing with Bronwen for three years and Chelsey for two. They are such great players and people. I look forward to stepping on the ice with them every time we play."

For the two new girls it's an entirely new, fresh experience. But Kleibrink and Nixon are still dealing with the 'what still could be' thing.

"We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to play in the 2006 Olympics and the memories will last a lifetime. But that doesn't stop us from wanting to experience it again," said the skip.

"It's wonderful to have this chance for a second Olympic experience. Our team is very excited about the Roar of the Rings. We've been waiting for this event for three years and it is finally here.

"Regardless of the outcome, the event in Edmonton will be the biggest curling event we have ever been part of. We can't wait to see how much noise Edmonton fans can make."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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