EDMONTON -- The depth of the field at this week's Capital One Grand Slam of Curling event, The National, will provide quality prep time for Kevin Martin.
After a nearly three-week hiatus from the curling ice, the skip and his Olympic-bound team of third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert look forward to the challenge.
"It's sure good to get back on the ice again. I've only thrown the last three days, actually. Took some time off," Martin said in a conference call on Monday ahead of The National, which begins Wednesday in Guelph, Ont.
The 18-team event will also feature fellow Olympians David Murdoch of Scotland and John Shuster of the United States, as well as strong Canadian competition in the form of Glenn Howard of Coldwater Ont., and Edmontonians Randy Ferbey, Kevin Koe and Ted Appelman.
"You don't really realize how tired you are until you take a break. You're kinda running on fumes, but you don't really know it," added Martin, who defeated Howard in the Olympic trials final in Edmonton on Dec. 13.
The veteran Edmonton skip, who will be competing in his third Olympic Games, gets back into competition Thursday morning when he faces Pat Simmons of Davidson, Sask.
"For us, The National is a big deal getting back on the ice, back into the flow," Martin said. "It's great to have the international flavour as well, with David Murdoch there and John Shuster."
Unfortunately, Martin won't face either in round-robin play at The National, which offers $100,000 in total purse money, including $22,500 to the winning rink. The Canadian Olympic rep will have to hope for a clash in playoffs, which begin Saturday.
"I think it's important we play international teams," he said. "They don't play the same as a Glenn Howard or a Kevin Koe or other Canadian teams. Their strategy and the way they play it are a little bit different. So it's important that Canadian teams get a feel for their style of game prior to the Olympics."
After the Grand Slam event, Martin's rink will return to his home club, the Saville Centre, for a three-day training session before getting back on the road. He will attend the Skins Game Jan. 16-17 in Rama, Ont., where he will meet Murdoch head to head.
After the Skins Game, the Martin rink heads to Winnipeg for the BDO Classic Canadian Open Jan. 20-24, another slam event, before a quick trip to Vancouver for four days at the end of the month to get a feel for the Games' venues.
-- Canwest News Service