By Brian Belfry – Record staff

An opportunity to see the 2010 Olympic men’s curling champion presents itself in Guelph this January.

For those going, “Huh?” and immediately crying foul since the Olympics don’t occur until February in Vancouver, allow me to illuminate.

The National, second leg of the World Curling Tour’s four Grand Slam events for the men, is being hosted by the Guelph Curling Club at the Sleeman Centre, Jan. 6 to 10.

Not only will Canada’s Olympic representative be on hand but so will David Murdoch, reigning world champion and Olympic rep for Great Britain.

“If you remember, (Murdoch) beat (Kevin) Martin three times,” at last year’s worlds, said Boyd Bell, co-chair of the Guelph Curling Club’s organizing committee for the National.

Olympic qualifiers from the “U.S., Switzerland, Norway will also be here along with two other European teams who have yet to qualify.”

Glenn Howard, Martin, Wayne Middaugh, Brad Gushue and Kevin Koe will be among the rest of the 15 rinks in the National but which one (if any) will be Team Canada won’t be decided until the Olympic qualifier in Edmonton Dec. 6 to 13.

No matter which rink comes out of that field, the members will be great reps for Canada and almost a guarantee that come February in Vancouver it will be one of Canada, Great Britain or Norway taking a bite of those gold medals for the photographers.

The Slams keep coming back to southwestern Ontario with Waterloo hosting the Masters of Curling in 2006 and 2008. That’s despite much higher attendance when the Slams are held in Western Canada. But there’s corporate dollars here, too.

“We didn’t want to put everything out west,” said the world curling tour’s executive director Wendy Kane. “It’s always going to be a challenge (to decide)…what communities get to host this.”

Helping out the tour’s decision this time around was Bell and his committee’s enthusiasm and experience (Bell was chair for the Ontario men’s provincial when Guelph hosted in both 1997 and 2006).

The club put up a sheet asking for 125 volunteers.

“It was filled in two nights, said Bell.

So it’s two of the $100,000 events in Ontario this year with Mississauga hosting the Masters in October and Guelph in January. It’s then Winnipeg two weeks after that as schedules get squeezed to fit in the Vancouver 2010.

An Olympic year and Olympic fever building make it all great timing for Guelph Curling Club who’ll be looking for some Olympic-sized fund-raising coming out of the event. A percentage of the ticket sales will go to the club.

“To have the best curlers from around the world competing here in Guelph just one month before the Olympics is probably only going to happen once in a lifetime,’ Bell said. “The City of Guelph is working very closely with us to make this the premier curling event for the year.”

Some good attendance could spell success in every corner.

“We would never ever allow the clubs (hosting this) to walk away with nothing,” Kane said. “That is not our intent.”

Information on ticket packages for the event can be found at guelphcurlingclub.com or calling 519-822-6171.

BITERS

Dale Matchett, winner of the K-W Fall Classic, has made it the team’s goal to break into the world’s top 18 by November and qualify for the National.

Canada’s Jennifer Jones beat China’s Bingyu Wang 7-4 Monday at the Trail Appliance Curling Classic in Calgary. It was the first women’s Slam event of the year. Jones pocketed $14,000. The other women’s Slam event is in Winnipeg with the joint final with the men in April at Dawson’s Creek.


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