THE Roar of the Rings flew by so quickly for Chelsea Carey, as if she blinked and these Olympic trials were almost done already, but even at the end it still feels so surreal.
Take the venue, for instance. Carey usually comes to the MTS Centre to watch Jets games, not to hear 8,000 fans cheer her shots and shout her name. But that's how curling rolls sometimes, from superstar to regular Jane. Usually both in the same week, sometimes both in the same day. For instance, lives will change according to how the Winnipeg skip and her rink turn up today. She could be one win away from Sochi. Or she could be out.
Here's how it all shakes out: With both Carey and Ontario skip Sherry Middaugh holding a round-robin record of 4-3, the two must play an afternoon tiebreaker today. The winner will move on to battle reigning Canadian champ Rachel Homan in the evening semifinal with fellow Manitoban Jennifer Jones waiting in the final game beyond. Carey beat Homan 9-8 in a wild one when they met earlier in the week, but Jones stunned her 10-2 to start the trials. And of all the games the Jones and Carey rinks have played, Jones has won most.
The record will show Carey had a chance to clinch second place on Thursday and lost it, making just 66 per cent of her shots in the afternoon draw against Middaugh. It was Carey's worst game of the round robin, perecentage-wise, and her misses allowed Middaugh to steal two singles in a row in the sixth and seventh end. The Ontario rink went on to win the game 7-6, forcing the Friday afternoon tiebreaker to settle things. (Homan, who also finished 4-3, was awarded second place based on a formula that considered accuracy of button draws before the round-robin games.)
Yeah, that was rough, but it's hardly a surprise this tournament would be decided on a razor's edge.
"The reality is that the field is really even," Carey said. "Anybody could have come out here and run the table, anybody could come out and be 1-6. We knew coming in that there could very well be a logjam, because there's no clear favourite. We beat Homan, and then she beat so-and-so, and then it gets messy."
This, though, is clear: As much as her breakout 2011, when she won the Manitoba Curling Tour, these hometown trials are also Carey's coming out.
She is relatively young, at 29, and she is hungry to wear red and white. She's been waiting for this chance since she was just a teen.
"As soon as the Olympics came in, it became the ultimate," Carey said. "The Olympics is the Olympics. It is the pinnacle of everything: of sports, of patriotism. So it became the goal, and to be here and to be in this event is what I always wanted to do."
The foursome she skips now, which includes lead Lindsay Titheridge, second Kristen Foster and third Kristy McDonald, cobbled it together just to try and make these Games. It seemed like a long shot then, Carey shrugged, and it still seems like that now, even though she's theoretically just three wins away.
"Man, it's been a long road," she said, and grinned. "I can't believe it's already done. That's crazy... the media, and the fans and everything's just been like nothing else I've ever experienced. It's been incredible."