Wanna go to the Games? Winning this week is a start

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

Just win, baby!

That's the best way any team not skipped by Kevin Martin or Glenn Howard at this year's Brier has a chance for a direct berth to the 2009 Olympic trials in Edmonton later this year.

A victory at the Saddledome would mean a team is one-third of the way to a guaranteed trials spot.

Otherwise, they have to throw themselves at the mercy of a bewildering qualifying process that includes surviving the pre-trials event in Prince George, B.C.

Young skip Brad Gushue, with the help of veteran Russ Howard, won the trials and delivered an Olympic gold medal for Canada in 2006.

Still, the qualifying process was deemed flawed and in need of a redesign. That's when the Canadian Teams Ranking System was born.

The CTRS was designed to measure a team's consistency over several seasons and, in effect, a fair way to determine which teams qualify for the trials.

Sure, there's no parallel in curling for the fan appeal of the Brier with its province against province format.

And, in the average fan's mind, winning the Brier remains curling's ultimate prize, not to mention the year's best party in Canada.

Winning a Brier remains one of the major events, along with the Canada Cup and Players Championship, to prove a team's worthiness.

A Brier win can lead to a bonus point should a team go on to win the world championship, but a team still needs to win three majors for a direct berth to the trials.

Martin and Glenn Howard, who won the last two world championships, have already grabbed one of four spots directly to the trials.

Randy Ferbey, Kevin Koe, Pat Simmons, Jeff Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk and Wayne Middaugh are positioned in the 12-team pre-trials event at Prince George.

Another eight teams will be named when the season ends April 19 with the Players Championship in Grande Prairie.

Since the Canada Cup starts in Yorkton three days after this year's Brier ends, three teams -- other than Martin and Glenn Howard -- have a chance to put themselves in a good spot with a double win.

Gushue has as good a chance as any. He's the No. 3-ranked team on this year's CTRS list and will still stay No. 3 no matter what happens at the Brier.

The 40-30-25-20 points available for the first four teams at the Brier are no different than the rewards for the same feat at the Canada Cup and Players Championship.

The average fan, bewildered by all the calculations, may have to wait for the situation to sort itself out.

If your team's not skipped by Martin or Howard, you could need a slide rule to figure out the probability you'll be chucking bricks in Edmonton this December.

Win it all next Sunday, though, and you're a third of the way to the trials.\


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