The Hamilton Spectator
Einarson chases four-peat at Tournament of Hearts
Looks to join Nova Scotia’s Colleen Jones as only rinks to do that
Winning four Canadian women’s curling championships in a row was “bloody hard to do in hindsight,” says Colleen Jones.
Nova Scotia’s Jones, Kim Kelly, Nancy Delahunt and Mary-Anne Arsenault comprise the only team to win four consecutive Scotties Tournament of Hearts titles, which they achieved from 2001 to 2004.
Kerri Einarson’s foursome can join Jones and company in curling’s history books with a fourth straight win at this year’s national championship, starting Friday in Kamloops, B.C.
“I definitely think about it and it’s only been done once before, but I also want to enjoy the moment,” Einarson said.
Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Harris out of Manitoba’s Gimli Curling Club return to the national championship wearing the Maple Leaf yet again as defending champs.
“You don’t always get to be Team Canada, so we’re just going to embrace it and go out there and really enjoy ourselves and make some shots and not put so much pressure on ourselves,” the skip said.
“I know we’re going to have targets on our back and we’re going to have to play really well, but that’s like any other year.”
What fuelled Jones to a quadruple was big-game experience begetting more big-game experience, she said.
“It becomes an ‘I know how to do this feel,’ ” Jones said.
“At the time, we were just feeling so confident, ready, primed and learned to thrive in big games and I think that’s what Kerri’s got going, so I think she’s going to do it,” she added.
Einarson says her team’s dynamics have come a long way since beating Ontario’s Rachel Homan in an extra end in Moose Jaw, Sask., three years ago to claim its first of three straight.
“We’ve grown so much since then,” Einarson said.
“I’ve definitely found that, over the years, if you’re getting into those big games, you are learning from them, getting that experience and feeling that feeling that you get on the ice, the pressure, the roar of the crowd, all of that. You just learn to go with it and it definitely does become a little easier.”
Ranked No. 1 in the world, Einarson has reached the final of all four Grand Slams played so far this season, going 1-for-3 in those games.
Einarson opens defence of her Hearts titles Friday against Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges at the 5,500-seat Sandman Centre.
Einarson isn’t the only woman poised to rewrite the record books.
No woman has won seven national titles, but six-time champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba, with an entirely new team this season, could be the first.
Jones and three-time champ Homan, also with a revamped lineup, are the main threats to Einarson’s bid for a Hearts quad.
Quebec’s St-Georges, Krista McCarville (Northern Ontario), Robyn Silvernagle (Saskatchewan), Stacie Curtis (Newfoundland and Labrador), Christina Black (Nova Scotia), Kayla Skrlik (Alberta), Suzanne Birt (Prince Edward Island), Clancy Grandy (B.C.), Andrea Kelly (New Brunswick), Kerry Galusha (Northwest Territories), Hailey Birnie (Yukon) and Brigitte MacPhail (Nunavut) round out this year’s provincial and territorial champions.
What Colleen Jones didn’t face during her run was three wild-card entries coming from the top three non-qualified teams in Curling Canada’s ranking system (CTRS).
Curling Canada added a wild card in 2018 and bumped it up to three in 2021.
Jones’s longtime vice Kaitlyn Lawes of Winnipeg, Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., and Meghan Walter of East St. Paul, Man., earned those berths in that order.
“I would say this is one of the strongest fields yet,” Einarson said. “We’re definitely going to be challenged and teams are going to play really well against us.”
At the time, we were just feeling so confident, ready, primed and learned to thrive in big games and I think that’s what Kerri’s got going, so I think she’s going to do it. COLLEEN JONES