Rink rings in prep with tattoos

Armed with more than visions of gold

By TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

The stage is set, and the rink is inked.

Now, all Cheryl Bernard and her Calgary Curling Club crew need to do is conquer the world -- be the best of the best over 10 days of curling next month in Vancouver.

Sounds easy, right?

"Oh ... we're training hard," said Bernard, of a prep schedule that's got the super-curler and her rink on the ice four hours a day, six days a week.

"It's lots."

It's all in the name of Olympic gold.

"We can't wait," said Bernard, 43, who's marked the occasion -- along with rinkmates Susan O'Connor and Cori Bartel -- by having the Olympic rings tattooed on her forearm. "We're excited -- it's a dream come true for us.

"The atmosphere is going to be amazing there," Bernard continued. "We thought the Olympic Trials (last month in Edmonton) were incredible ... although this is going to be in a smaller venue, it should be interesting. Now, we'll have (most of) the fans behind us, so it'll be like curling in front of 6,000 of our closest friends and family."

Since Bernard & Co, who meet Monday with media to talk about the upcoming Olympic experience, will be the focus of attention for the pro-Canadian curling crowd -- and feeling the pressure of being a home favourite -- they've taken preparations seriously.

Not only have they hit the practice sessions hard, but they've journeyed around the globe to get a feel for what will be their competition at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Proudly dressed in their Canadian red and white, the Calgarians competed earlier this month in the 2010 International Bernese Ladies Cup in Switzerland alongside the nine other rinks chasing gold in Vancouver.

"It was really good to put on Canadian sweaters and wear the Maple Leaf," Bernard said. "And we needed to be playing in a competition."

Bernard, third O'Connor, second Carolyn Darbyshire lead Bartel swept through the A event, scoring four straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.

Along the way, they beat Switzerland's Mirjam Ott 5-4 and Great Britian's Eve Muirhead 4-2. But the Bernard rink fell 8-3 in a quarterfinal draw to Muirhead.

Both Ott and Muirhead will carry the colours of their respective countries at the Games, and Ott is a two-time Olympic silver medallist.

"She's strong, and Muirhead can give a good game," Bernard said. "And China (with Bingyu Wang) is on a roll from (winning the world title) last year."

The other Olympians in Bern were Japan's Moe Meguro, Sweden's Anette Norberg, Russia's Liudmilla Privivkova, Denmark's Angelina Jensen, Germany's Andrea Schopp and American Debbie McCormick.

"It's going to be a pretty awesome to represent Canada and play those teams in Vancouver," Bernard added. "The team that's curling the hottest for the week is going to win."

The gold-medal game goes Feb. 26.

EXTRA ENDS

Not even a strong closing run during their first trip to the nationals could soothe the heartache of Nadine Chyz and her Calgary Curling Club rinkmates, who went 8-4 in the roundrobin but bowed out in the playoff draw at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors in Quebec. The Alberta champs were eliminated in the first tiebreaker Saturday, as B.C.'s Dailene Sivertson thumped them 12-1. "The disappointment has started to sink in more because our team went with goals of doing better," said Chyz, who was flanked by third Rebecca Pattison, second Kristina Hadden and lead Kimberly Anderson. "All of us had a great time, and it was an amazing experience that will be beneficial to our curling careers. But we had higher hopes going into it." ... Dave Rutherford is a step closer to a second straight trip to the senior men's provincials after scoring a berth in the southerns. The Inglewood Golf & Curling Club skip and his team won an A-side qualifier in district play Saturday at the Calgary Winter Club. The other rinks advancing from districts to the southerns, which begin Friday in Medicine Hat, are Doug Baird (Calgary Winter Club), Barry Ralph (Airdrie), Scott Egger (Brooks), Dave Mayer (Inglewood), Lloyd Hill (Calgary Curling Club/Airdrie), Ed Grotkowski (North Hill), Harold Breckenridge (Inglewood), Rob Armitage (Red Deer), Paul Gowsell (Calgary Winter Club) and Terry Gair (Calgary Curling Club).

LAST ROCK

The juvenile men start districts Friday in Hanna, with 15 rinks looking to advance to southerns. Among the entries are Michael Roy (Inglewood), Matthew Romero (Acadia), Lucas Scott (Garrison), Geoff Nicholson (Calgary Winter Club), Devon Pipke (North Hill), Kyler Kleibrink (Okotoks), Chris Tambosso (Calgary Winter Club) and Ryan Louis (North Hill). The southerns go at The Glencoe, Feb. 13-15.

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA

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