Trials and tribulations

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

"Hurry" doesn't only refer to sweeping.

It's also what the winners of the Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials will have to do in order to prepare for Vancouver 2010.

Olympic curlers who have represented Canada have questioned the method of deciding which teams go to the Games so close to lighting the torch.

"I've been over in Switzerland quite a bit coaching Ralph Stockli's team," said Russ Howard, who won Canada's first Olympic gold medal in men's curling with Brad Gushue's rink in Turin 2006. "I think it's out of necessity that we all do it differently.

"I used to think our system was the best until I got over there, then I thought theirs was, but keep in mind what happens is Scotland maybe only has five or six solid teams -- we have a couple hundred in men's and ladies. We have way more depth, we can afford to do it this way."

It's the amount of competition nationally that makes Canada so competitive internationally. Not to say there isn't room for improvement.

"Our system's very busy because Glenn Howard pushes Kevin Martin to be better and all the teams, and same for the ladies," Howard said. "In Sweden, there might be two good women's teams. Not that the best team that comes out of there isn't very good, obviously, because we know that.

"They kind of have no choice. I think out of necessity they say: 'There's our four best curlers, let's put them together.' They know for three or four years in advance that they're a team and they have a much better chance of preparing than we do."

Ideally, Howard said Canada should keep the same system, just move the trials back a bit.

"You need a little longer time from the middle of December to February to be the Canadian rep," said Howard, who is commentating on the morning draws for TSN. "I'd like to see this happen a little sooner and give whoever wins a chance to prepare similar to the other countries.

"Our system's great, it should just be a little sooner. Their systems, they really don't have a choice. There is one ladies team in Norway so they couldn't do it this way. I think everybody's got pluses and minuses, for sure."

Mike Harris, who skipped Canada to a silver medal in curling's inaugural Olympic appearance in Nagano 1998, said it depends on the personality of the team.

"It depends who wins. I think there are some teams that can handle the pressure and will be able to take advantage," he said, referring to Teams Martin, Randy Ferbey and Glenn Howard. "They have a better chance than someone who has not been on the world stage."

"(A team) with really not that much international experience, it is totally different and they're going to have their hands full," said '98 gold medallist Jan Betker, who played with Sandra Schmirler. "I almost think a year in advance would be preferable to prepare and play international events."

GERRY.MODDEJONGE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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