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Saskatchewan curlers disappointed by Olympic qualifying process

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REGINA -

One of Canada’s top curlers won’t get a chance to represent the nation at the 2022 Olympic Games.

Skip Chelsea Carey, who represents a rink out of Regina’s Highland curling club, hasn’t met the criteria to earn a spot in the Canadian curling trials or any of the pre-trials in the lead up to the Olympic qualifying event.

“It’s like a knife in the heart to not have a shot at that,” said Carey.

In 2017, Carey lost 6-5 to Team Rachel Homan for a spot at the 2018 Olympics. She had a chance to tie the game in the 10th end but failed to make a double take-out.

Following the 2020 curling season, Carey’s foursome from Alberta broke up. In 2021, the two-time Scotties Champion announced she was joining Jolene Campbell, Rachel Erickson, Stephanie Schmidt and Jennifer Armstrong.

“Just impossible to say no,” said Campbell when Carey inquired about joining the team. “All four of us had the same mentality. You’re bringing on a championship, a two-time Scotties winner, that just makes you an automatic contender.”

The team announced Carey’s addition in May. They immediately set a goal of winning the provincial Scotties to represent Saskatchewan at the Tournament of Hearts. They also hoped they’d get a chance to vie for a spot at the Olympics.

However, Curling Canada criteria required Olympic trials eligible teams to be formed before 2021. The announcement was made in February of 2021, which the Regina curlers felt was unfair given the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew we were coming in with not a lot of [Canadian Team Ranking System] points. We were hoping that they [Curling Canada] might have some route in this season so we could play a couple of events early and top up the points that we had because we didn’t have the opportunity to play last year,” Carey said.

Campbell has represented Saskatchewan at the Tournament of Hearts four times, most recently in 2016. The third didn’t compete in 2020 and was expecting to play in events in 2021 that would enable the team to gather qualifying points.

“You know go out the first few weekends, play everything, we were willing to go play everything on the calendar,” Campbell said.

Nine teams will compete at the Canadian Olympic trials in Saskatoon at the end of November. Four teams, Rachel Homan, Kerri Einarson, Jennifer Jones and Tracy Fleury qualified directly for the trials based on winning events and CTRS points.

Three teams, Casey Scheidegger, Kelsey Rocque and Laura Walker, qualified this past weekend in Ottawa at the direct trials entry. The final two rinks will be determined in Nova Scotia at the end of October. Of the 23 teams that were involved in the pre-trials competition, Team Carey didn’t qualify for any.

“It’s hard not to feel sometimes who you are and who the team is because we’ve seen over the years the rules be altered and tweaked,” Campbell said.

Curling Canada says teams needed three of four teammates from declared 2020-21 lineups to be considered for pre-trials qualifying events. However, the runner-up to represent Canada at the 2018 Olympics will now be watching from the sidelines.

“To dance around it and be so close and now have to sit on the couch and watch other teams with a chance, it’s a knife to the heart. A punch to the gut, a horrible horrible feeling,” Carey said.

The Olympic trials are scheduled for Nov. 20 to 28 at Sasktel Centre in Saskatoon.

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