There’s less than two months to go before the Olympic pre-trials in Prince George, B.C. In early December, the Roar of the Rings event in Edmonton will determine Canada’s teams for the Vancouver Olympics.
As a result, the Saville Shootout, which traditionally kicks off the World Curling Tour schedule in Canada, has attracted the best field in its history.
“Both fields are just tremendous in their quality and depth,” said Saville curling manager Rob Krepps.
In addition to Randy Ferbey, who’s already qualified for the men’s event, the field includes four pre-trials teams — Kerry Burtnyk, Pat Simmons, Bob Ursel and Ted Appelman, the event’s defending champion.
The marquee name on the women’s side is Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard, who’s one of four teams already in the gate for Edmonton.
Among the pre-trials teams are Cathy King, Sherry Anderson, Crystal Webster and Heather Rankin.
Heather Nedohin, whose team lost the 2009 Alberta women’s final to 2006 Olympic medallist Shannon Kleibrink, is also in the field.
China’s Olympic men’s team, skipped by Fengchun Wang and the country’s women’s B team, skipped by Xindi Zhang, are also in the field.
“We’ve constantly had better and better fields each year and this one just might be the best,” said Krepps.
“Certainly the fact it’s an Olympic year and teams are trying to peak for the pre-trials and Trials means that they’re wanting to get an early-season event to get it going.
“The fact we’ve got this kind of a field, the timing of the event, the fomat of the event and the quality of the ice conditions lend to attracting a field like this.”
Given the short lead-up time to the trials cycle was a factor of attracting a quality skip like Burtnyk, who’s come in much lighter than his heaviest weight last season.
“From a high point from last year, which was probably higher than last year, I’m probably down 20-25 pounds,” said Burtnyk. “I’m pretty positive every curler who’s in the trials or pre-trials is putting in an effort beyond what they normally do.
“From a cost standpoint, it wouldn’t be justified (to come here otherwise), for sure. But we wanted to start playing this weekend and we thought this would be a good place to start.”