Crash and burn at trials

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

It's the once-in-a-lifetime event the curlers came here calling the "world's greatest bonspiel."

And it already is.

In the first draw of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, three of the four games went down to last rock and the one that didn't had only two rocks left not thrown.

And if Cheryl Bernard of Calgary hadn't made an exceptional no-room-for-error last rock double take-out shot it would have been a clean sweep of curling carnage.

Three of the top four seeds, including the poster girl of the event -- Jennifer Jones and her 2008 world championship team from Winnipeg -- lost their opening games in the eight-team round-robin tournament where there's not much wiggle room.

Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, the Olympic bronze-medal winner from Torino 2006, flashed on three shots in the game, including her last rock, to lose her opener.

Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon, who along with Jones, Kleibrink and Bernard earned a free pass to Edmonton without having to go to the pretrials in Prince George, goes into this morning's draw having to dig herself out, too.

So far, in the women's event, the score is Prince George 3, Edmonton 1.

I mean, it was a 'dog' day afternoon.

The underdogs, the teams which had to take the Road to the Roar route to get here, dominated to open the show which featured about 2,500 fans who were also event no shows, the major snowstorm and minus-22 weather conditions reducing the number of fans in the stands from the paid admission total of 8,427.

"I don't know if all the top seeds are feeling the pressure or what," said Krista McCarville, who would have joined Jones's giant killer Amber Holland, Kleibrink kabonger Crystal Webster and Lawton slayer Scott, admittedly a former world champion herself but not a top-seed favourite this time around.

Pressure? None of the fallen favourites admitted it.

But Jones curled 63% to Holland's 82% with Cathy Overton-Clapham at 66% throwing third rocks to Kim Schneider's 74%. Kleibrink curled 62% to Webster's 80% with Amy Nixon at 66% to Lori Olson-Johns 80% at the third position.

Lawton threw 66% to Scott's 84% with Marliese Kasner at 69% to Jeanna Schraeder's 84%.

"That's not the way we wanted to start," said Overton-Clapham, the first member of the highest profile female team in the tournament.

"We made a few good shots. But when we made a good one, we'd make a bad one. It wasn't a very well played game on our part."

Jones said if you're going to have a bad one, better it be the first one than the last one.

"Hopefully we got the bad one out of the way. The key is how we bounce back."

Remember the history here.

"Favourites don't win this thing," said Randy Ferbey going in. "When you start losing, you don't know how to get out of the thing."

When the carnage had concluded, the high profile losers were reaching to recall past slow starts that turned into triumph.

"This is where experience comes in. You have to leave it behind as just one game," said Jones.

They've been good at that.

"Two thousand and eight," she said.

One loss from elimination at the Scotties they ended up winning eight in a row, including a tie-breaker, the 3-4 playoff game, the semifinal and final and then went to the Worlds and were down to their last life again and won the gold. Last year at the Scotties it was a similar story.

"In 2005 we were 0-2 in the provincials and won seven straight," said Saskatoon's Lawton.

"In a Scotties we lost our first three and then had six straight wins.

"We just have to relax. It's just one game."

Four years ago at the Roar in Halifax, Kleibrink won her first one but lost the next three. But there were nine games in that event, not seven.

"It seems like we always have a slow start. But this has to be the end of our slow start."

The top four seeds don't even start playing each other until Wednesday.

That could be too late to make a date for Vancouver 2010.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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