By Kevin Mitchell – Vernon Morning Star

Bob Ursel usually wins the Twin Anchors Houseboat Curling Classic and then enters a few other cashspiels to fill up his winter schedule.

A busy father and Kelowna mountie, the 44-year-old doesn’t rack up quite the curling air miles as some of the game’s heavyweights.

However, he’s always considered a contender. Backed by Jim Cotter of Vernon and Kelowna’s Kevin Folk and Rick Sawatsky, Ursel chases a three-peat as the $60,000 Twin Anchors cashspiel opens Thursday night at the Vernon Curling Club.

“This is a great spiel,” said Ursel. “The ice is always good and it’s close to home.”

Ursel started the season two weeks ago in Edmonton by stopping former world champion Randy Ferbey of Edmonton 5-2 in the final of the Saville Shootout. Ursel pocketed $4,500.

The Vernon cashspiel is an Asham World Curling Tour event so offers valuable points towards entry into the 2009 Road to the Roar (Olympic Pre-Trials) in Prince George, Nov. 10-14.

Glenn Howard (2007 world champ), who has already qualified for the eight-team Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, presented by Monsanto, Dec. 6-13 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, plays Vernon’s T.J. Perepolkin in Thursday’s 6 p.m. draw.

Kevin Koe of Calgary, Mike McEwen of Brandon, Blake MacDonald of Edmonton and Ursel earned berths to the Pre-Trials.

“We’ve been gearing up for three years at a shot at going to the Olympics (Feb. 12-28),” said Ursel. “I think we’re all a bit more dedicated this year. We’ve got a legitimate shot. If it’s our week, we can get there.”

There are 16 men’s rinks playing for $24,000. Also entered are: Jeff Richard, Brendan Willis and Tyrel Griffith, all of Kelowna, Brian Windsor, defending B.C. champion Sean Geall of New Westminster, Jay Peachey, Team Russia, Corey Sauer, Brian Moore and Richard Brower.

On the women’s side, there will be 24 teams competing for $35,000.

Four rinks – Miriam Ott of Switzerland, Angelina Jensen from Denmark, Moe Miguro of Japan, and Lidmila Privivkova of Russia – are guaranteed spots in the Vancouver Winter Games.

Kelly Scott of Kelowna and Shannon Kleibrink and Cheryl Bernard, both of Calgary, will play in the Pre-Trials or Trials.

Kleibrink won a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics in Italy, while Bernard is the defending Alberta champion.

Back after a brief hiatus is Kelley Law of Richmond, a bronze medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and 2000 world champ.

Jen Gerow of Vernon was a last-minute replacement for Calgary’s Diane Foster.

Perepolkin is pumped for his opener.

“We have had excellent reactions from the public already in anticipation of this game and hope to have as many local supporters out as possible,” said Perepolkin. “We are very excited to be playing our first game of the year against one of the best teams in the world, and have been out practising as much as possible to make sure we put up our best fight.”

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