Wild week in curling

GEORGE KARRYS, FOR QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

This has been one weird week of curling.

First, not one but two U.S. TV hosts -- Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon -- tried the sport. A third, Bernard Goldberg of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, jetted into Guelph with a camera crew for a future show on the roaring game.

Then, an ice rink in Kindersley, Sask., burned to the ground, forcing the provincial women's championship to relocate. Nobody was hurt but the competitors lost equipment and possessions, although a curling supply shop brought in a truckload of gear so the curlers could complete the event.

Across the Atlantic, the arctic cold snap allowed Scottish curlers to host their Grand Match -- the massive bonspiel featuring 3,000 players outdoors on the lochs -- for the first time in 30 years. But the national association had to cancel it because of "health, safety and insurance" issues.

Thoroughly outraged, Scottish curlers have flocked to the great outdoors anyway, and are hosting their own unsanctioned tournaments.

Meanwhile in Switzerland, Canada's 2010 Olympic women's team blew hot and cold. Calgary's Cheryl Bernard qualified undefeated for the playoffs but was thumped by Great Britain's Eve Muirhead in the quarterfinals. Interestingly, the only other Canadian team in the field won the title -- Jennifer Jones, the gal who was predicted to represent Canada in Vancouver.

Closer to home, 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue finally won his first Capital One Grand Slam of Curling title, the Swiss Chalet National in Guelph. This merely illustrates the team's wacky year, in which it won its first four tournaments of the season, lost the chance to defend its Olympic gold and then beat an all-star field at the Sleeman Centre yesterday, including Edmonton's Randy Ferbey in the final.

The north dominated Ontario's provincial women's championship. Thunder Bay's Krista McCarville won her fourth title in five years (that's no surprise) but the other finalist was Sudbury's Tracy Horgan. The championship was also hosted at McCar- ville's home club, and the national Scotties, which starts a month early this season, is in Sault Ste. Marie.

STRONG UPSET

Heather Strong, who has practically owned the Newfoundland women's title for the past decade, lost yesterday's final to Shelley Nichols.

And what of Canada's other Olympic representative, Kevin Martin? After no less than 24 consecutive Grand Slam playoff appearances dating back to 2003, Martin and his Edmonton mates returned from the holidays and fell flat.

The boys went 1-4 in Guelph and were eliminated from playoff contention on Friday afternoon.

"We're not sharp right now," Martin acknowledged after his second game. "We took two weeks off after the (Olympic) trials and didn't throw any rocks at all. There's some rust. We had to take a break and we knew we weren't going to be real sharp coming out. You just accept that and now it's time to continue to build."

Glenn Howard's team also needs to rebuild. The Grand Slam machine, well-known for its ruthless consistency, was anything but consistent in Guelph. Howard's rink made the semifinals, but had to overcome a 1-2 start and win a tiebreaker to get there.

The Martinites will be flying back into Ontario this weekend for the Casino Rama Skins Curling Game, and then it's off to another Grand Slam event in Winnipeg. Same for the Howard crew.

Lots of time to sharpen up ... right?

GEORGE KARRYS IS CURLINGURU.COM


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