The road to Beijing makes a pit stop in Ottawa this week.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of various Olympic Trials qualifying events, Curling Canada added a qualifier to the schedule this fall to help round out the nine-team fields for the Tim Hortons Curling Trials, slated to take place in Saskatoon, Sask., from Nov. 20-28.

Starting Wednesday, the RA Centre’s Curling Centre of Excellence facility in the nation’s capital will host the Canadian Curling Trials direct-entry event and Canadian Curling Pre-Trials direct-entry event.

The headliner is the Trials direct-entry event as five teams of each gender will compete for three women’s spots and two men’s spots at the Olympic Trials.

When it comes to the Pre-Trials direct-entry event, eight men’s and eight women’s rinks will battle in a triple-knockout tournament for two spots for each gender in the Home Hardware Pre-Trials, scheduled to take place in Liverpool, N.S., from Oct. 26-31.

In Liverpool, the final two spots for the Olympic Trials on both the men’s and women’s sides will be on the line.

Let’s take a closer look at the teams competing in Ottawa this week.


Trials direct-entry event

Women’s Teams

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- The top three teams advance to the Tim Hortons Curling Trials (spots available determined by number of team already qualified)

- Teams that have already qualified: Kerri Einarson, Rachel Homan, Tracy Fleury, Jennifer Jones

- Teams that don’t qualify via the Ottawa direct-entry event will play in the Home Hardware Pre-Trials in late October

Suzanne Birt – The veteran skip from Charlottetown will look to qualify for the first Olympic Trials of her career. The 39-year-old two-time Canadian junior champion has represented the island province at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts 12 times, including the past three years. Birt already has two finals appearances this season.

Corryn Brown – The two-time defending British Columbia champion won a bonspiel in Leduc and made the semifinals at another in Edmonton so far in this young season. The 26-year-old from Kamloops will also be looking for the first Trails appearance of her career.

Kelsey Rocque – Rocque added the dynamic front end duo of Dana Fergusson and Rachel Brown ahead of last season, but fans never really got to see the foursome in action due to the pandemic. Now, the Edmonton rink will head to Ottawa with a Trials spot on the line. Ferguson and Brown competed at the 2017 Olympic Trials for Val Sweeting and should be a stable force for the 27-year-old Rocque and 25-year-old Danielle Schmiemann, the vice on the team.

Casey Scheidegger – Scheidegger finished 3-5 at the Olympic Trials in Ottawa four years ago and will look to get back for a second time, playing with the same Lethbridge foursome. Team Scheidegger has made two semifinals on the Alberta Curling Series this season.

Laura Walker – Walker, arguably the biggest name in this field, has represented Alberta at the past two Canadian championships and is coming off a breakout bronze medal run inside the Calgary bubble last season. They fell to South Korea’s EunJung Kim in the final of the Saville Shoot-Out earlier this month and will be a favourite to qualify for Saskatoon this week. Nadine Scotland returns to the lineup this season after missing nationals in 2020 due to a pregnancy.


Men’s Teams

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- The top two teams advance to the Tim Hortons Curling Trials (spots available determined by number of team already qualified)

- Teams that have already qualified: Brad Jacobs, Brad Gushue, Brendan Bottcher, John Epping, Kevin Koe

- Teams that don’t qualify via the Ottawa direct-entry event will play in the Home Hardware Pre-Trials in late October

Matt Dunstone – The Saskatchewan sharpshooter has made back-to-back memorable runs at the Tim Hortons Brier. Last year inside the bubble, Brendan Bottcher made a beautiful angle raise with his last throw against Dunstone in the semis to send Dunstone and company home. Four years ago, at just 22, Dunstone was the last rock thrower for Steve Laycock at the 2017 Trials, finishing with a 2-6 record. Second Kirk Muyres was on that team as well. Now older and more experienced, Team Dunstone will be a tough out in Ottawa.

Colton Flasch – After not getting much time on the ice last season due to COVID-19, Flasch and his newly formed Saskatchewan rink will have an opportunity to play more in 2021-22. The former second for Kevin Koe is rounded out by Catlin Schneider at third, and the Marsh twins, Kevin and Daniel, at second and lead. Team Flasch hasn’t qualified for the playoffs in two events this season.

Jason Gunnlaugson – Gunnlaugson, 37, has only recently competed in his first Canadian championships over the last two seasons after many years on Tour, but will look to qualify for his third career Olympic Trials in Ottawa. Gunner was an alternate for John Morris’ silver medal squad at the 2013 Trials and went winless (0-7) at the 2009 Trials as a skip of own rink.

Glenn Howard – The ageless wonder will look to qualify for his seventh career Canadian Olympic Trials at age 59 this week in the nation’s capital. He played in his first three as third for his brother Russ Howard in 1987 (demonstration sport at Olympics), 1997 and 2001 before skipping his own squad in 2005, 2009 and 2013. Howard lost to Kevin Martin in the 2009 final, the closest he’s came to wearing the Red and White for Canada at the Olympics. Howard and company have played well so far this season, winning the Oakville Fall Classic in late August before making the semis in a pair of subsequent events in Oakville. This year might be the last chance the four-time Brier and world champion will get to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. A top two finish will get him one step closer to that dream.

Mike McEwen – The Winnipeg skip missed out on Olympic glory by smallest of margins at the 2017 Trials. McEwen dropped a nail-biting 7-6 decision to Kevin Koe in the final after Koe executed a draw to the four-foot for the win. McEwen is now skipping a new team in the prairie province and made a semifinals appearance at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard earlier this month. The 41-year-old can advance to his third career Canadian Olympic Trials with a top two finish this week in Ottawa.


Canadian Curling Pre-Trials direct-entry event

Women’s Teams

Two berths available for Home Hardware Pre-Trials

- Abby Ackland
- Jill Brothers
- Kerry Galusha
- Ashley Howard
- Lauren Mann
- Jessie Hunkin
- Laurie St-Georges
- Sarah Wark


Men’s Teams

Two berths available for Home Hardware Pre-Trials

- Corey Chambers
- Jacques Gauthier
- Sean Grassie
-  William Lyburn
-  Shaun Meachem
-  Vincent Roberge
-  JT Ryan
-  Ryan Wiebe