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Einarson's curling team drives for five at Canadian women's championship

Kerri Einarson Kerri Einarson - The Canadian Press

Kerri Einarson agrees with a saying in sport that it is more difficult to stay on top than to get there.

Winner of four straight Canadian women's curling championships, the Manitoba skip says each title has been progressively harder to claim. The fifth could be the toughest yet.

"Absolutely. Everyone is gunning for you, but we know what that is like," Einarson said. "We've just kind of got to do our thing and worry about ourselves and let the chips fall.

"We know what we need to do individually and as a team to hopefully bring it home again."

You can watch every draw throughout the week on TSN, and the TSN App.

Einarson opens her quintuple bid Friday against Quebec's Laurie St-Georges at WinSport International Arena at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park.

The 18-team Scotties Tournament of Hearts concludes Feb. 25 with the victor representing Canada at the world championship March 16-24 in Sydney, N.S.

Einarson's Gimli Curling Club foursome including vice-skip Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Harris tied Colleen Jones (2001-04) with a fourth consecutive crown last year in Kamloops, B.C.

They defeated Jennifer Jones in the final to earn a return trip to nationals as defending champion a fifth time.

A fifth victory would catapult Einarson and company into a category of their own in Canadian curling's history books.

"Very difficult. No one has done that," Einarson said. "Definitely it's crossed our minds of course. It would be pretty amazing to win five in a row. That's definitely something that we would love to have under our belts."

After bronze medals in two straight world championships, Einarson wants to move up that podium.

"We've got a lot of unfinished business we want to take care of and to bring gold home for Canada would be a dream come true for us," she said.

What makes a fifth Canadian title formidable is Einarson's main rivals will be as rested as her team. Curling Canada created new entry criteria for wild-card teams at national men's and women's championships starting this year.

Three-time champion Rachel Homan and Jones, owner of six career Hearts, knew last spring their teams would compete in Calgary.

Homan ranked second and Jones third in the national women's rankings at the end of the 2022-23 season.

So like Einarson, they were able to plan a season that bypassed their respective provincial championships in January.

"Rest and recovery is huge because the first half of your season is quite busy and there's a lot of travelling," Einarson said.

Jones announced earlier this week this season will be her last in women's team curling. The 49-year-old from Winnipeg is a two-time world champion and an Olympic gold medallist.

Manitoba's Kate Cameron took the third wild-card spot as this season's highest non-qualified team at No. 7 in the Canadian women's rankings.

The inability of Nunavut to ice a team brought a fourth wild card into the mix. B.C. runner-up Corryn Brown, ranked No. 8, was given that spot in Einarson's Pool A.

The removal of tiebreakers also raises stakes in the preliminary round. If teams are tied for a playoff spot, the head-to-head result is the first tiebreaker, followed by the cumulative score in the draw-the-button that precedes each game.

"Your back is basically against the wall if you lose a couple games, so definitely can't afford that if there's no tiebreaker," Einarson said. "Every game is pretty crucial."

The top three teams in each pool of nine advance to the championship round, which determines Page playoff matchups on the final weekend.

Pool B featuring Homan, Jones, Cameron, B.C champion Clancy Grandy and Northwest Territories veteran Kerry Galusha is the tougher of the two.

The average overall national ranking in Einarson's Pool A is 27.33 and 29.1 in Pool B, according to Curling Canada.

Einarson reached just one final this season at the PointsBet Invitational in Oakville, Ont., where she lost to Homan. Einarson is satisfied with her team's execution heading into Calgary.

"We've qualified (for playoffs) in every event and lost two semifinals where we didn't have hammer coming home," the skip said. "We've had a pretty consistent season."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2024.