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These girls are Olympians

by Margo Weber
Hurry HARD! Go BerNARD!

I write this blogpost still excited about last night (and very tired, that was my latest night in the Patch for sure.) You see, I have a confession. Susan O’Connor (photo left) from Team Cheryl Bernard is one of my best friends (me at photo right). We’ve been friends since we were early teens and I had the pleasure of being her Maid of Honour this summer at her wedding to Todd Brick (now there’s a curling name, eh?).

I would have been really happy with a Shannon Kleibrink win yesterday too, and I admit I’m a closet Amy Nixon fan. But I most of all was sick to my stomach nervous for a win for my friend. And I got it. When that rock stopped I jumped and jumped with my arms in the air. I sat with that crazy crowd of striped scarves and cheered and screamed and didn’t care who heard.

Susan deserves to go to the Olympics more than anyone I know, she played great all week. She plays with class. She never says anything bad about anyone. She loves her team. She has faith in her skip. And now she is an Olympian and I’m so proud.

I went to the winners banquet last night and it was so neat to talk to her family and the families of the rest of the players. They are so excited, as most of them didn’t dare to think about what would happen the next couple months. They are all going to try their best to find a way to go to Vancouver and see their loved ones play for Canada.

No matter what happens, these girls are Olympians. That can never be taken away. They are now part of a fraternity of brothers and sisters forever. Last night legendary Olympic rower Marnie McBean came up and introduced herself to Susan and said ‘Congratulations, you are now one of us.’ It was very cool. Russ Howard gave Sue the advice that she would have to ‘learn to say no.’ Haha! What a ride my friend will be on.

Way to go Cheryl, Susan, Carolyn and Cori!

Cute tidbits from last night:

Each player had to pee 90ML into a cup, sternly watched. This apparently took at least a half an hour each person, and one player (I’m not gonna say who!) had to go back again after the party.

When I went up to the Patch bar to buy some drinks with Sue’s hubby, Todd, he said to the bartender ‘My wife is going to the Olympics!’ and the bartender said ‘What sport?’  It was hilarious.

Looking forward to the men’s final, just now underway. Will it be another close one? Can’t wait.

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Curling immortality

by Margo Weber
EDMONTON – Oh, what a night.
Here’s a pic I snapped from last night’s women’s final at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, aka the Olympic Curling Trials.
This is the quick scrum they do for media with immediate deadlines – this used to be just the print guys, but now everybody wants everything they can get right NOW – right after the last rock, and before the march down the ice to the podiums, and the TV finale.
There’s more media scrumming afterwards, of course, and you can see the interviews with champion Cheryl Bernard and finalist Shannon Kleibrink here.
Awesome to see Bernard family members, including Cheryl’s husband Terry Meek in the foreground (in the Bernard jacket), watching her take that big step into curling immortality.
I’ve got another post regarding the women’s match before the men’s final today, so stay tuned… but for much, much more on all this great stuff (including another one of my pics from last night) make sure you subscribe to/follow/whatever the TCN Twitter feed, located here.
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This is where it gets fun

by Margo Weber
EDMONTON – Okay, so with one round robin game left, this is how it shakes down today on the women’s side.

Cheryl Bernard has a bye to the final by virtue of her 6-0 record. Shannon Kleibrink has a bye to the semi.

This is where it gets fun. Amber Holland, Krista McCarville and Stephanie Lawton are all at 3-3. They all play different teams and if they all LOSE – they bring in Crystal Webster and possibly Jennifer Jones, both at 2-4… Webster in this scenario would win her game, and Jones would then have to win hers as well in order to be included in the mix. 

Let me paint the picture for you. This is very unlikely.

You see with all three of the 3-3 teams needing to lose in order for this scenario to work, Lawton needs to beat the wrecking ball that is Cheryl Bernard. Then Holland has to lose to Kelly Scott, and McCarville has to lose to Webster. Then we are looking at tiebreakers. 

And if Jones beats Kleibrink that then brings them into the mix too. So Jennifer Jones has to hope for every single sheet to go her way in order to have a chance at some tiebreakers and the Olympic Winter Games.

So we will watch here at 1:00pm and see what happens. The Bernard and Kleibrink squads likely have no interest in showing any mercy, so it should be fun to see the other teams scramble for what is still technically possible. The only team out of contention at this point is Kelly Scott.

I would like to take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief at not making predictions this week. And I shall point out that on this here TCN blog,  Mary Anne Arsenault picked Kelly Scott to win… and Cheryl Bernard to come in last. 

This is how close this field is.
[CCA photo of Jennifer Jones by Michael Burns]
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Playah: Cheryl Bernard

 by Margo Weber
Okay Cheryl Bernard, the day isn’t even over and you know you’re my girl.
You are the leading lady of the story that is unfolding before our eyes. You are having a great week, and just seem to be in the zone. You know how to squeak out these wins, and now you just need one more to guarantee a bye into Saturday’s final.
Now, the whole Playah of the Day concept allows me to only pick people who are easy on the eyes, and Ms. Bernard, you’ve got it covered.  You make me want to drop that last 30 pounds that have been nagging me, whiten my teeth and run to the nearest tanning salon. I also have to give a shout out to the ponytail you rocked this morning… super cute.

So… you’ve gone from perennial contender to now, possibly, a favourite to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games and wear the red and white. You made two awesome shots in your first game against Krista McCarville, won a very iffy measure against Amber Holland, had a solid win over Crystal Webster, wowed us against Kelly Scott and made a great little run back to beat Shannon Kleibrink in a wild game this morning. Now you’re all alone at the top of the standings at 5-0. Everyone else has at least two losses.

Girl, you go have a glass of red. You deserve it.
[Edmonton Journal photo by Chris Schwarz]
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No picks! No idea!

by Margo Weber
So… I didn’t make picks, aka predictions, at the beginning of the week. And I’m getting all these emails from people asking me: why not?
In short… because I didn’t fricking know! And still don’t.
This thing is a crapshoot, and I don’t envy anyone who puts their picks into the public forum: just as Jim Armstrong, Sherry Middaugh, Mike Harris and Mary Anne Arsenault did for The Curling News.
I had said in an email earlier in the week that I had good feelings about Kevin Martin and Jeff Stoughton. And on the women’s side… Shannon Kleibrink and Jennifer Jones. Seriously obvious picks so… why bother, right?

And I’m not sure why anyone cares what a self-professed couch curler thinks about the field… but I do tend to shed light on who I WANT to win; so here goes.

On the women’s side… I would love to see my girl Susan O’Connor from Team Cheryl Bernard in Vancouver. And Sasha Carter? Haha, her hilarious hairstyles would totally fit in with the international crowd… although Team Kelly Scott is now in big trouble at 1-4.
I like Team Jones… they have dominated the past few years, although they’ve been all over the place the last month, winning spiels but then failing to qualify. Their current 2-3 record leaves them in trouble, too.  I also like the Kleibrink/Amy Nixon combo and think they might be our best chance at gold, drawing on their previous experiences in Italy in ’06. And Team Stefanie Lawton seems sooooo nice!
So for the women… for me, it’s a draw.

The men? I’d love a new face to win it all. I didn’t go bold and choose Kevin Koe to win (like my friend Al Cameron did for TCN and the Calgary Herald), but I would love that! Young team, would look good for the sport. How about Randy Ferbey? That would be fun! I don’t think it’s gonna happen, but what a comeback that would be!
I’m not into the Martin thing… and as of right now I don’t think it will happen. There seems to be two Kevin Martin zones. The ‘I can do anything’ zone… and the ‘I can complain about exterior factors and let them bother me’ zone. Kevin is in the second zone. So until this changes, he ain’t gonna win.
I’ve covered Alberta… I suppose there are others… like Glenn Howard. And I’d be totally cool with the white belts going to Vancouver.

Those are my two cents. I guess I’m saying I don’t know.  But that’s okay… someone is going to win anyway.
(CCA photo of Jacquie Armstrong, left, and Sasha Carter by Michael Burns)
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What’s the difference?

Q: What’s the difference between an Olympic curling year and any other curling year?

A: Media. media. media.

Curlers in San Jose, California managed to get NFL football player Vernon Davis out onto the curling ice earlier this month, and in any other year, the story would have run in local media only. Perhaps with a photo.

We know this because various celebs have tried curling in the past couple of years… and we’ve promoted their experience, right here at The Curling News. Us, and local media where the experience took place.

However, with Vancouver 2010 less than three months away this story has exploded in this viral media universe, complete with video and multiple still pics.

Example: between 9:00am and 9:30am eastern time this morning, no less than 45 media outlets had posted the story online, and the counter was still running.

May we suggest more of these kinds of promotional efforts, from now until Games time. The recipe is simple: grab celeb; apply to ice; write and film.

Rinse and repeat.

Did you miss The Curling News Blog? This may be our first post since last Thursday, but there’s been lots to follow on our Twitter feed. Such as:

Rizzo beats Kleibrink for 11K; McEwen wins on a measure
Glenn Howard, Mike Harris and “Buttons” open The Dominion Curling Club Championship tonight
• When will they curl on Vancouver’s super-cool new/old city rink?
Wayne Middaugh would like to set the record straight:
• Canada loses to Japan at Vancouver wheelchair curling exhibition
• You can follow the Olympic Torch journey online
• No tolls on Team Gushue highway
• 30K raised in little Carmen
Kevin Martin moves into top spot on Tour money list
• The Daceys are off to Chelyabinsk, Russia
• Vernon, BC gets a Grand Slam
• TSN HD channel available free during Olympic Trials

And so very much more. Click on “Follow” at the top left of this page

[Photo by Associated Press]

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Olympic curling roadsign

Our friend Terry Jones is back on the curling beat, and not a moment too soon.

The veteran Sun Media sports scribe, who also authored the 2007 book The Ferbey Four, was at a “32 days out” ceremony for the massive Roar of the Rings event coming to Edmonton December 6-13.

Otherwise known as the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, the event is basically the “Olympic Trials” which will declare Canada’s representatives for Vancouver 2010.

As Jones tells us here, many of the late week draw matchups were revealed as part of the news conference.

The much-anticipated and possibly crucial all-Edmonton battle between Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey will be on the Wednesday afternoon draw, which also features Edmonton’s Kevin Koe versus the other pre-qualified team skipped by Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

Thursday morning features Ferbey-Howard and Martin-Koe, and Thursday night will feature Ferbey-Koe and Martin-Howard.

Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, Calgarian Cheryl Bernard, Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton and Calgary’s 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink have their feature games against each other Wednesday morning, Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon.

As any curling fan worth his or her salt knows, the remaining squads will be known after the Road to the Roar in Prince George, B.C., which starts up pretty darned soon.

Jonesy also tells us that ticket sales are already at 134,844 for the eight-day event, and single draw tickets go on sale this Saturday.

Tickets are $50 a pop for the women’s final (Dec. 12) and the men’s final (Dec. 13), while the semifinals are $40 each. The early round-robin draws are $30 each.

For heaven’s sake, this has got to be one of the last wakeup calls for curling fans to get their butt to Edmonton, for this showdown of the ages.

“We can’t believe this event is only a month away,” said host committee woman Jackie-Rae Greening. “Probably in our lifetime we won’t have the opportunity again to watch a trials where the winners get to represent Canada on their home turf at the Olympic Games. Now it’s getting so close, it’s getting so exciting.”

The last word goes to K-Mart, who unveiled some kind of countdown road sign, along with Kleibrink, at yesterday’s newser (photo by inews880AM, click to zoom in).

“I think the level of curling has increased significantly, the curlers have been training harder and have all become better than we were four years ago,” said Martin.

“That’s going to make this event even better and hopefully is going to make Canada even better at the Olympics.”

NOTE: have you signed up to follow The Curling News Twitter account?

If not, you’ve already missed today’s info on New Brunswick’s mixed team; Stoughton and Burtnyk on their Road to the Roar (and McEwen and Gunnlaugson, too); the husband of Sandra Schmirler and his honour at carrying the Olympic Torch; and Brad Gushue as an “interesting choice” to publicize the Tim Hortons Brier… considering that he hopes to not compete in it!

Head to the page and click on “Follow” to get tuned in to the digital curling world!

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Tour thoughts from week five

As CTVOlympics reports, it’s another week come and gone on the World Curling Tour.
Digging deeper, one might agree with Lydon Little that BC teams shouldn’t be overlooked heading into the pre-Trials “Road to the Roar” next month in Prince George.

Particularly Kelowna’s Bob Ursel, who has made it to two finals in his two events this season, and who won yesterday’s playoff matches in Vancouver by scores of 7-1, 6-1 and 7-1.

And yesterday’s victory by Jennifer Jones (Calgary Herald photo by Christina Ryan) indicates she has indeed shrugged off last year’s fourth-place worlds finish in Ganeneung, Korea.

She’s been an outright winner in all three tournaments since: last fall’s Grey Power Players’ Championship; the Eurotour opener in Oslo, Norway (beating Olympic champ Anette Norberg) and now the first women’s Grand Slam of the season (beating world champ Bingyu Wang).

Jones has also overtaken the struggling Shannon Kleibrink – now oh-fer in three tournaments this fall – in the Order of Merit standings.

Meanwhile, Brad Gushue’s run of tournament wins came to an abrupt halt, but not before he defeated Kevin Martin for the second time this season. The Gushues ended up losing a C-qualifier to – guess who? – ex-teammate Chris Schille.

As for Martin, and Glenn Howard, neither team has won an event this season. Hmm.

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Norberg wins Masters

2006 Olympic champion Anette Norberg is the 2009 Re/Max Women’s Masters champion after defeating Swedish rival Stina Viktorsson by an emphatic 8-4 score in the final at Basel.
Semi-finalists were USA Olympic representatives Debbie McCormick and Switzerland’s Fabienne Fuerbringer, while the quarter-finalists included Vancouver-bound Eve Muirhead of Great Britain and Germany’s Andrea Schoepp.

The Norberg victory follows a runner-up finish two weeks earlier in Oslo, when they were defeated in the championship final by Canada’s Jennifer Jones.

Jones and an impressive group of teams – including 2006 Olympic medallists Mirjam Ott and Shannon Kleibrink – are down to their last lives at Calgary’s Trail Appliances Grand Slam event in Calgary, which wraps up on Monday.

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Season of Champions TV

It’s no surprise that the Canadian Curling Association has made another leap into the digital world.
Season of Champions TV was announced today and premiers live, online, on Wednesday, October 7 at 7:00 pm MT/9:00 pm ET.

It’s the latest innovation by the CCA to use Internet technology to bring the curling community closer to its championship events and the competitors. The strategy includes the on-going development of the curling.ca website, which underwent a dramatic facelift in July 2008, the seasonofchampions.ca website, with comprehensive information on all of the Season of Champions events, plus live scoring from each championship or event utilizing the CCA’s CurlCast program.

It all starts October 7 with a two-hour live webcast from Edmonton – home to December’s Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, aka the Olympic Curling Trials.

Edmonton media personalities Jim Jerome (a famous Patch host) and Jackie-Rae Greening (she of many Edmonton host committees) will host seven of the eight skips who have qualified for the Roar: namely Kevin Martin, Kevin Koe, Randy Ferbey, Jennifer Jones, Shannon Kleibrink, Cheryl Bernard and Stefanie Lawton.

Ontario’s Glenn Howard is unavailable due to work commitments.

The athletes will appear in a live forum, when curling fans will have the opportunity to submit questions online, by simply by logging on to the Season of Champions website. CCA is strongly recommended that fans pre-register their questions.

“The Canadian Curling Association continues to want to reach out to our fans and showcase our events the best way possible,” explained Greg Stremlaw, CEO of the Canadian Curling Association.

“We have made it a priority to not only embrace information technology as a very important tool within our business, but also to use it to help bring curling enthusiasts closer to the best curling events and athletes in Canada.”

Another innovation for the 2009-10 season will be the introduction of AtThePatch.ca, a website dedicated to capturing all the fun and excitement of the infamous Keith’s Patch. This site, which will launch in early November, will feature entertainment information, Up Close and Personal interview sessions and everything else that makes Keith’s Patch the legendary party central for Season of Champions events.