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Einarson set for trip to Sweden seeking first world curling title

Kerri Einarson Kerri Einarson - The Canadian Press

CALGARY — Kerri Einarson looked at Facebook on Friday and saw a memory flash on the screen from March 2020, before life as she knew it came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There she was standing in Winnipeg’s Fort Rouge Curling Club, preparing for her first women’s world curling championship.

Einarson's team travelled to Prince George, B.C., and "all of a sudden it was cancelled," Einarson said Friday at the Fort Rouge while preparing for the 2023 women’s world curling championship in Sandviken, Sweden.

“When we got the phone call, we were pretty upset. I had quite a few tears and felt very angry. But now, having this opportunity, It's an absolutely amazing feeling.”

Fresh off winning a record-tying fourth Canadian women's championship, Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Harris are jetting off to Sweden in pursuit of their first world title.

Canada opens the tournament on Friday, March 18 in the first match of round-robin play against host Sweden. The playoffs start on March 25.

“Our No. 1 goal is to bring gold back to Canada,” said Einarson, of Gimli, Man. “We have some unfinished business to take care of.”

The Einarson foursome missed out on the chance to compete at worlds in 2020 due to the pandemic, then placed a disappointing sixth at the 2021 world championships held inside the Calgary bubble.

Perhaps the hardest loss came last year in Prince George, B.C., when South Korea stole points in the last two ends to knock Canada out of contention for gold.

Einarson and her crew settled for bronze.

“The bronze medal last year was another kind of step up the ladder for them,” said Colleen Jones, skip of the only other Canadian women’s team to win four consecutive Scotties Tournament of Hearts (2001-2004). “And the world championships are just hard, period

"I mean, every team there is a strong, strong team not afraid of anybody."

Some Canadians may still think this is the most dominant curling nation on the planet, but Canada has won just two of the last 13 women’s worlds. Jennifer Jones skipped the last Canadian team to win a women’s world title back in 2018.

"There's definitely no free spaces on the bingo card at worlds," Sweeting said. "Everyone’s going to be really tough."

Traditionally, international curling teams have held an advantage over their Canadian competition due to roster stability. They’ve trained with the world championship as their goal – as opposed to Canadian rinks also eying the Scotties — and have tended to stay together as teams as opposed to playing musical chairs.

But Einarson and her teammates got together in 2018. And the chemistry is evident.

“Winning just makes you feel a little invincible, and now they’ve had that for four straight years together,” Colleen Jones said. “They’ve all got the same experience. And that’s what the European teams always had, right?”

Well, they used to. But this year, reigning world champion Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland lost two members of her team to retirement in Esther Neuenschwander and Melanie Barbezat.

"We know that Silvana is an amazing player, and if the team is struggling before her, she’s usually able to stand on her head," Birchard said. "So, we’re definitely going to have to play our best against them.

"They definitely present a challenge."

Briar Schwaller-Hurlimann and Carole Howard are the two new faces on Team Switzerland.

"That’s been an incredibly strong foursome," Jones said. “But now they’ve got two newbies on the team, and how will they perform? Who knows?

"Kerri’s team has four years together and that will serve them well."

The one question mark for Team Einarson is the status of Harris, who shot 97 per cent at lead in the Canadian final.

Harris, 30, was six-months pregnant at the Scotties and will be seven months when the playoffs start in Sweden.

Fifth Krysten Karwacki is ready to step in if needed.

"If anything did go south, and I couldn't play for whatever reason, I really trust her going in for me and playing with the girls,” Harris said. “And I know she'd do a really great job.

"So, there's that peace of mind, but I’m going to try and play the whole thing if I can to keep going with it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2023.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated that the 2020 women's world championship was scheduled to be held in Sweden. In fact, it was to be held in Prince George, B.C.