Curling teams around Canada are gearing up to stamp their ticket to the Olympic trials in Saskatoon ahead of the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics — including Saskatchewan's Team Dunstone, who won bronze medals at the last two Briers.
From Sept. 22 to 26, 10 teams will compete in Ottawa at the Canadian Curling Trials Direct-Entry Event, while another eight teams will compete in the Canadian Curling Pre-Trials Direct-Entry event.
A total of three women's and two men's teams will compete in Olympic trials in Saskatoon, hoping to represent Canada at the Olympics.
Team Dunstone will be competing in the Canadian Curling Trials Direct-Entry event.
Kirk Muyres,Team Dunstone's second, said the team took about three months off this summer to make sure they're refreshed and ready to compete in Ottawa.
"We tried not to talk to each other too much, we tried not to think about curling at all and we stayed off the ice until the beginning of September," he told CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.
"When you get time away, you get that excitement back and then you start playing really good."
Matt Dunstone, the skip for Team Dunstone, said he's also ready to get back on the ice.
"Come the middle of August, you're just itching to get right back into it again," he said. "Just that feeling of competitiveness, playing guys you love to beat out on the ice."
Rule change removes direct qualification
Although Dunstone and Muyres are excited to compete, the team would have already qualified for Olympic trials under previous rules since they won bronze medals at the last two Briers.
However, Muyres explained that Curling Canada changed its qualification process amid the pandemic, which means Team Dunstone how has to compete in pre-Olympic trials to win their spot.
"We thought we were in a pretty good position to get directly into the trials. But you know, the powers that be decided that that wasn't the case," he said.
"We can sit here and complain about it or we can put our head down and get to work, and that's what we decided to do, so we didn't worry about it too much," he said.
Muyres said It'll even be good for the team to compete in a high level competition this early in the season, especially after taking time off in the summer.
"We're looking forward to getting out to Ottawa, hopefully having a good week, and booking our ticket to the trials in Saskatoon because I think all curlers would agree there probably is not a better place to play an event than SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, or the Brandt Centre in Regina."
Dunstone, meanwhile, said the team has done everything it can to have a strong performance in Ottawa.
"We feel really good about this team and what we've done over the last three years and and the work that's been put in," he said.
"We're all feeling very confident, very comfortable with where we're at and we're just going to let the chips fall where they do."
Similar to Muyres, Dunstone said he also has his eyes set on the Olympic trials in Saskatoon.
"Playing in Saskatchewan, playing in front of the home crowd, whether it be the Brier, the Olympic trials, there's no better feeling than playing in front of the world's best curling fans."
Teams competing at the Canadian Curling Trials Direct-Entry Event:
Team Suzanne Birt (Charlottetown)
Team Corryn Brown (Kamloops, B.C.)
Team Kelsey Rocque (Edmonton)
Team Casey Scheidegger (Lethbridge, Alta.)
Team Laura Walker (Edmonton)
Team Matt Dunstone (Regina)
Team Colton Flasch (Saskatoon)
Team Jason Gunnlaugson (Winnipeg)
Team Glenn Howard (Penetanguishene, Ont.)
Team Mike McEwen (Winnipeg)
Saskatchewan's Team Ashley Howard (Saskatoon) and Team Jessie Hunkin (North Battleford, Sask.) are playing in the Pre-Trials Direct-Entry event.
The Beijing 2022 winter Olympics are set to run from Feb. 4 to 20.