It took months, a couple years even, and countless games over too many bonspiels and events for Chelsea Carey and Mike McEwen to even begin chronicling it all.
But last weekend it became officially official: the two Winnipeg rinks had their arduous grind rewarded and their tickets punched to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials -- at MTS Centre, Dec. 1 to 8 -- which will determine the men's and women's reps at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Both Winnipeg rinks qualified through the Canadian Curling Association's Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) after weekend play at the Grand Slam Players' Championships in Toronto. Carey and McEwen were two of the four teams who officially qualified, along with Kevin Koe of Calgary and Sherry Middaugh of Victoria Harbour, Ont.
Here's the added bonus for two rinks that have experienced so much heartache at the provincial level: not only have they earned their shot at possible Olympic glory, they'll have the chance to chase it right here in good ol' hometown.
"We've never been to a national Scotties and so to be able to play in a full-sized NHL arena is an incredible experience on its' own, never mind in your home town," said Carey in a conference call with the national curling media. "We're big hockey fans, big Jets fans and to be able to play in their building... it's all just pretty incredible. I don't think for us it's all sunk in yet."
Tickets for the event are already on sale (www.curling.ca/tickets/) and the official draw for the Trials will be announced on Friday when ticket-buyers will be able to purchase 'Flex' packages. The addition of Carey and McEwen means Manitoba will be represented by four of the 12 teams, along with Jeff Stoughton and Jennifer Jones, who qualified for the event.
Four more teams -- two men, two women -- will land their spot at the 2013 Capital One Road to the Roar Pre-Trials qualifying event, Nov. 5 to 10 in Kitchener, Ont. The 24 teams who will participate in that last-chance event will be announced on May 1.
"For us, we haven't had the Brier experience and it finally feels like we're getting to go to the show," said McEwen. "I guess when you combo that with playing in front of the home crowd... we've all talked about it, we all get goosebumps thinking about it. It's going to be something that is a little bit indescribable.
"We're hoping the intensity, the adrenaline, we can use that as a good thing for our play on the ice."
McEwen and his Fort Rouge quartet of B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld have added Brendan Melnyk of Alberta as their fifth. And Carey, along with her team of Kristy McDonald, Kristen Foster and Lindsay Titheridge have added Breanne Meakin as their fifth.
Both McEwen and Carey qualified not by winning any one particular event, but by being consistent over a two-year period and racking up points in the CTRS standings. And that in itself can make every event even more stressful.
"As you go into spiels you can't be thinking too much about that," said Carey. "But coming into the Players' (Championship) we certainly were and even in Grande Prairie (for an event last month) it was hard not to look.
"Now that we're in... my third Kristy is the guru on the team who watched it all and she was joking that her life has lost all meaning now that she doesn't have to count points and all that stuff. We've done more of it than we would have liked to, but thank God we don't have to any more.
"This is what we put the team together for, to give ourselves a shot at the Olympics," added Carey. "So, to do this way is personally relieving and amazing feeling, for sure. To finally feel like our hard work is paying off and this is what we wanted. We're ecstatic."
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