Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fowler eyeing Oly Pre-Trials

Manitoba's reigning champ out for points at B.C. bonspiel

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A little home cooking is just fine with Rob Fowler's curling team from Brandon.

Manitoba's defending men's champion, Fowler feels his team is on track to go after the big local prize even though they've been slow out of the gate on the World Curling Tour.

Fowler and his team of Allan Lyburn, Richard Daneault and Derek Samagalski have already secured their berth in the 2013 provincials (Feb. 6-10 at Neepawa) as the defending champions.

"Our main focus the last two years has been to work towards peaking at the provincials, and that continues to be our focus this year," said Fowler, whose team is in its third season together. "This year has been similar to last year, in that we've had a slow start to the year but our goal is to work through December and January and be at our best in February."

Fowler said his team is working to build on last season's big finish.

"The thing that would mean the most to us would be to win the province again. That's not something you can put a price tag on." .

Olympic dream

The Olympic dream is also on the radar for Team Fowler.

Starting today in Kelowna, B.C., Fowler will compete at the 2012 Canadian Open of Curling along with 17 other top Canadian and international men's teams. In a round robin-style bonspiel with eight qualifiers, there's a $100,000 purse and important Canadian Team Ranking System points on the line.

"If we had a better start this year, there was an outside chance that we could have contended for one of the (six) direct spots into the (Olympic) Trials," Fowler said. "Our focus now is to get into the Pre-Trials next November. We're in position to do that, but definitely picking up more points in the next two Grand Slams, provincials and a few other World Curling Tour bonspiels would help to solidify that for us."

The Pre-Trials from Nov. 5-10, 2013, at Kitchener, Ont., will include 12 teams, after the first six that directly qualified for the Olympic Trials, based on different CTRS points combinations from the 2010-2013 seasons. The 12 teams will compete for the final two spots in the 2013 Olympic Trials Dec. 1-8 in Winnipeg.

"We're focused on picking up more points. Realistically, we have a better chance to get into the Pre-Trials based on our two-year total," Fowler said. "Last year, we were eighth in Canada, so in theory, we would have had to have been fourth or better this year to end up sixth on the two-year total. With our slow start, that's out of reach. The Pre-Trials is definitely a viable option for us and is the ultimate goal."

The Canadian Open is the second stop on the men's Grand Slam of Curling.

"Playing in the Slam, we're just going to try to go out there fresh. We haven't played in about three weeks," said Fowler lead Samagalski. "We're going to go out there and have fun, and hopefully some of the shots we were missing earlier in the year will be made and we'll get some positive results after this weekend."

There is a $1-million bonus available if a men's team can win all four events in the Grand Slam of Curling series. Edmonton's Kevin Koe won the first event, the Rogers Masters in Brantford, Ont., last month.

"It is fun. We've all got to work too, but we're out there curling, playing in front of these great crowds and on TV," Samagalski said. "Lots of other people are sitting at home or they're working too. Sometimes when it's not going as good as we want it to, we think about how we're pretty lucky that we can be playing against all these top teams and being a part of these big events."

Other top teams competing include 2012 Brier and world champion Glenn Howard and 2011 Canada Cup winner Kevin Martin. He and 2012 Canada Cup winner Jeff Stoughton have already gained entry to the Trials.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Four Manitoba teams competing in B.C. 'spiel

What: 2012 Canadian Open of Curling

When: Today to Sunday

Where: Kelowna, B.C.

Manitoba teams: Rob Fowler (Brandon), William Lyburn (Winnipeg), Mike McEwen (Winnipeg), Jeff Stoughton (Winnipeg)

Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS)

1. Kevin Koe 200.195

2. Jeff Stoughton 181.450

3. Mike McEwen 126.880

4. Kevin Martin 120.410

5. John Epping 116.640

6. Glenn Howard 113.060

17. William Lyburn 49.775

28. Rob Fowler 26.000

On the tube

Today

Sportsnet East, Ontario, West, Pacific -- 2:30 p.m.; Sportsnet1 -- 6:30 p.m.; Sportsnet1, and joined in progress on West and Pacific following NFL broadcast -- 10 p.m.

Friday

Sportsnet East, Ontario, West, Pacific -- 2:30 p.m.; Sportsnet East, Ontario, West, Pacific -- 6 p.m.

Saturday

Sportsnet East, Ontario, West, Pacific -- Quarter-finals, 2:30 p.m.; semifinals, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday

Sportsnet East, Ontario, West, Pacific -- Final, noon

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 13, 2012 D4

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