Slam event tougher than Olympics

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

The field includes Alberta's 2002 Olympic silver-medallist Kevin Martin, who is heading back to this year's shindig in Vancouver.

And Newfoundland's Brad Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist. Then there's former world champions Glenn Howard of Ontario, Alberta's Randy Ferbey, Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton, Quebec's Jean-Michel Menard, Manitoba's Kerry Burtnyk and Ontario's Wayne Middaugh. Not to mention the USA's Olympic-bound John Shuster.

"To be quite honest with you, I think it's probably tougher to win this event than to win the Olympics because that's how high the level is here," Norway's Olympic-bound Thomas Ulsrud said before last night's opening draw of the Grand Slam's Canadian Open at the MTS Centre. "So, for me, it's a good test."

Ulsrud will use this Slam event as his team's last tune-up before next month's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"I'm not going to lie, I'm going to keep an eye on Kevin (Martin) to see what kind of game they're playing," said Ulsrud, supported by third Torger Nergaard, second Christoffer Svae and Havard Vad Petersson. "Our coach is here and he'll watch them for a couple of games so, it will be fun."

Although Norway's Pal Trulsen defeated Martin in the 2002 Olympic final to win the gold medal, Ulsrud does not expect to match his countryman's exploits.

"I think people back home don't expect us to win," said Ulsrud, who opens against Alberta's Ted Appelman at nine this morning. "I'm not going to lie to you, if we get a medal at the Olympics, I'm going to be happy. Gold would be a big bonus.

"Obviously, it's going to be big but, at the end of the day, we'll play the same teams we play at the Worlds so we don't want to think too much about it. Just go out on the ice and have fun and try to win some games."

Ulsrud, who gets funding from Norway, tries to enter two Slams every season and this is his third trip to Winnipeg.

"This is my favourite Slam," said Ulsrud, 38, whose wife runs a tanning salon in Oslo. "I'm lucky. I joke around with her. We have a little split for the family. I say, 'I bring fame to the family and you put food on our table.'"

FIRST BLOOD: Martin beat fellow Albertan Chris Schille 6-1; Manitoba's Mike Mc-Ewen surprised Stoughton 8-4; Howard nipped Ontario's Dale Matchett 6-5 and Burtnyk clipped fellow Manitoban Jason Gunnlaugson 6-5.

Today's draws will be at 9 a.m., and 12:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m.

CARRUTHERS IN: Winnipeg's Reid Carruthers is replacing Adam Enright at second for Alberta's Chris Schille here because Enright is serving as Martin's fifth at the Olympics. Although Enright has been Martin's fifth for the last couple of years, it was not a slam-dunk that he would join them at the Olympics. He only became official after some lengthy discussions with the CCA. It was finally decided to name a front-end player because they are the most likely to get injured, Martin said.

"It was a joint decision between the team and the CCA," said Martin, who pushed for two alternates. "I'd sure like to see the next step where it goes to six so you could add a skip like a Glenn Howard or a David Nedohin or somebody."

The CCA had made a sudden announcement that it wanted a say in who the alternates would be for the two Canadian teams during the Canadian Curling Trials in Edmonton, which had pushed some noses out of joint. Martin, however, said he agreed.

Martin is hoping to get Enright into some games here before the week is out.

TUBING: CBC will televise the quarter-finals on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday's final at noon. Its digital affiliate, bold, will broadcast Saturday's semifinal at 6 p.m. During the fourth-end break of the final, a $1 million draw-to-the-button contest between fans will be held. To enter, check contest at www.capitalone.ca/button.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos