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Road to Canada’s Olympic curling trials crowded in Ottawa tournaments

OTTAWA – Jockeying to represent Canada in team curling at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing escalates Wednesday in Ottawa with a pair of events designed to complete the trials and pre-trials fields this winter.

Five men’s teams are chasing two berths and five women’s foursomes will compete for three spots in November’s Tim Hortons Curling Trials in Saskatoon.

Regina’s Matt Dunstone, Saskatoon’s Colton Flasch, Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene, Ont., Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson and Mike McEwen will vie to join Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher, Toronto’s John Epping, Brad Gushue of St. John’s N.L., and Calgary’s Kevin Koe already qualified for the men’s trials Nov. 20-28 in Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre.

Charlottetown’s Suzanne Birt, Corryn Brown of Kamloops, B.C., Edmonton’s Kelsey Rocque and Laura Walker and Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., seek to join Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, Man., Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones in Saskatoon.

The men’s and women’s champions in Saskatoon will wear the Maple Leaf in team curling in Beijing.

Another longer road to trials is entry via a pre-trials tournament Oct. 26-31 in Liverpool, N.S., which will produce the final two men’s and last two women’s entries for Saskatoon.

A parallel tournament running Wednesday to Sunday at Ottawa’s RA Centre will complete that pre-trials field.

Eight teams of each gender compete in a triple knockout draw for two men’s and women’s berths in pre-trials.

Winnipeg’s Abby Ackland, Jill Brothers of Halifax, Yellowknife’s Kerry Galusha, Saskatoon’s Ashley Howard, Ottawa’s Lauren Mann, Jessie Hunkin of North Battleford, Sask., Laurie St-Georges of Laval, Que., and Sarah Wark of Abbotsford, B.C., comprise the women’s field.

Winnipeg dominates the men’s side with Corey Chambers, Jacques Gauthier, Sean Grassie, William Lyburn, Ryan Wiebe, and JT Ryan skipping squads. Saskatoon’s Shaun Meachem and Vincent Roberge of Etchemin, Que., round out the men’s tournament.

Fans aren’t allowed into the RA Centre because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Curling Canada will stream games lives on its YouTube channel.

Curling Canada revised its qualifying criteria for both team and mixed doubles Olympic trials because the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the majority of 2020-21 events that would have determined those fields.

Six duos have already qualified for the mixed doubles trials Dec. 28 to Jan. 2 in Portage la Prairie, Man.

Ten more will earn spots via bonspiels from September to December or by a high ranking in Curling Canada’s Canadian Mixed Doubles Rankings as of Dec. 14.

Canadian champions Einarson and Gushue, runners-up Kadriana Sahaidak and Colton Lott, Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant, Jones and Brent Laing, Nancy Martin and Tyrel Griffith and Homan and John Morris, have already gained entry into the mixed doubles trials.

Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes won gold in the Olympic debut of mixed doubles in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

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