Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burtnyk's fire still burning

Olympic dream is dead, but there are still Grand Slams and Briers to be won

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Others, many others, would have busted a broom in half over their knee, punched a hole in a locker-room wall and fired off a string of curses that would make a Hells Angel blush.

But there was Kerry Burtnyk, one of the most distinguished curlers on the planet, reacting with the grace and poise of a true pro at the very moment his Olympic dream went up in a puff of smoke in one crushing instant over the weekend at the 'Road to the Roar' pre-trials in Prince George, B.C.

"Oh sure it still hurts," said Burtnyk, already back at his Wellington West office on Monday. "It's something we've been working towards for years and particularly in the last six months where we've put in an amazing amount of effort -- as other teams have. And to have it all end in such an obscure way is tough to take."

In case you missed it, Burtnyk's Olympic quest ended in the C event of the pre-trials at the hands of Beausejour's Jason Gunnlaugson when his last rock was burned by second Richard Daneault as it neared the house for what appeared to be the game-winning draw. Instead, Gunnlaugson advanced in a 9-7 extra-end victory and eventually grabbed one of the four Olympic Trials spots, along with Jeff Stoughton, Pat Simmons and Wayne Middaugh.

"I did at that moment what just came naturally," said Burtnyk. "Sure, you are a little in shock... but the first thing I did was go and tap my sweepers on the butt to let them know it was a tough break and then went and shook hands with the other team to congratulate them.

"We talked as a team the next day about what had transpired and made sure everyone had a chance to say what they felt needed to be said and that nobody felt guilty. You win as a team and lose as a team."

Burtnyk has felt this sting before. He lost to Kevin Martin in the final of the 2001 Olympic Curling Trials but, after stepping away from the game in 2005-06, opted to chase the gold-medal dream once again.

And while there had been speculation that a loss in the Oly pre-trials or next month's trials in Edmonton would have Burtnyk packing up his gear and shutting it down for good, the former world and two-time Canadian champ vows his Assiniboine Memorial foursome will roll up their sleeves and chase the other jewels on this year's curling calendar.

Why? They owe it to their sponsors, Burtnyk insists, and he and his teammates still believe they've got the game to make some noise in the Grand Slams, the provincials and, hopefully, the Brier in Halifax next March.

"Right now at this very moment, maybe all of that doesn't seem as big," admitted Burtnyk. "Today I probably don't have the fire in the belly. But in a few weeks from now it'll feel a lot different. I've gone through this process before. And, as a matter of fact, back in 2001 when we lost on the last rock to Kevin Martin... that was a lot harder to overcome.

"But that's part of the heartache of sports, right? The further you get, the more it hurts if it doesn't work out. The reality is that come January there's only going to be one team in this country still alive in the Olympic process. That's the only team that's going to be happy at the end of this.

"It was fun to be part of the process, it was an accomplishment to be part of that process. We would have loved to have had a chance to go to Edmonton, but it wasn't meant to be. Now it's time to look at goal No. 2, which is to try and go to the Brier.

"Believe me," Burtnyk added, "we still love the game and are passionate about it."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2009 C5

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