Vernon/Kelowna rink pursues Olympic curling berth
Three of the top men's curlers from the Okanagan hope to live out a dream over the next week in Winnipeg.
Vernon's Jim Cotter, and Kelowna's Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky, are members of the John Morris rink which begins play Sunday at the Roar of the Rings Canadian Olympic curling trials.
While Morris calls the shots as skip, Cotter throws fourth rocks, Griffith plays second and Sawatsky is the lead. Jason Gunnlaugson will serve as the fifth player, while the coach is Pat Ryan.
Of the eight teams competing at the week-long event, one will earn the right to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
"It's one thing to represent your curling club or your province, but to represent your country would be the ultimate," said Cotter, a three-time B.C. men's champ. "It's been a lifelong dream for me, and it would be phenomenal for all of us to be able to get to Russia."
Of course, navigating through the field of rinks in Winnipeg won't be easy. It reads like a who's-who of Canadian men's curling—Morris, Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin, Brad Jacobs, Kevin Koe and Jeff Stoughton all have Brier titles to their credit. Mike McEwen and John Epping round out the roster of contenders.
The Vernon/Kelowna rink spent three days prior to the event in Calgary training as a team, leaving no stone unturned when it came to getting prepared.
"It's all going to come down to who's the hottest and who gets the breaks," said Cotter, who played in the 2005 trials with Pat Ryan. "At the end of the day, you're playing the rocks and not what's on paper. These are all good teams and everybody's going to be beating each other up. Whoever wins will probably have curled the best they have in their lives. We feel like we've done pretty much everything we can to be prepared. Now we have to go out and play our best."
The Morris/Cotter rink opens play on Sunday against Ontario's Glenn Howard.
Each team will play a seven-game round robin, with three teams making the playoffs.
The final game for a berth in Sochi will be played Sunday, Dec. 8 at noon Pacific time.