Glenn Howard enjoyed the Olympic experience as a coach for Great Britain at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Now the Canadian curling legend hopes to get back to the Winter Games as a player.
The four-time world champion can take a step toward that goal at this week's Men’s Trials Direct Entry event in Ottawa, the first stop on the qualification road to the 2022 Olympics. Two direct berths to the Tim Hortons Olympic Curling Trials in late November are on the line.
"Our potential is endless," Howard said. "We can beat anybody and we know that. That's the attitude we take going into every event."
As a curler, an Olympic appearance is the only thing missing from Howard's impressive resume. He took up coaching a few years back and guided Eve Muirhead's team to a fourth-place finish at the 2018 Winter Games.
One of the few elite domestic curlers who takes a season-by-season approach rather than focusing on the full quadrennial, Howard's team of son Scott Howard, David Mathers and Tim March has maintained a decent ranking in recent years. They were one of five rinks invited to this week's direct qualifier at the RA Centre.
Now back to 100 per cent after taking a few months off to recover from a snowmobile crash that left him with injured ribs, Howard has been in form early this season.
The Penetanguishene, Ont.,-based rink won the Oakville Fall Classic in late August and followed it up with semifinal appearances at the next two bonspiels.
"We'll keep riding it," Howard said. "I'm really pleased with how we played over those three weeks."
Howard, who opened this week's five-day competition with a 9-5 victory over Team Matt Dunstone, was scheduled to face Team Colton Flasch on Thursday night.
Now 59, Howard was forced to the bench at last season's Tim Hortons Brier due to his injuries. Longtime friend and former teammate Wayne Middaugh took his place throwing fourth stones and nearly made the three-team playoff cut.
Howard's team entered this week's event in the No. 19 position in the world rankings. Nine Canadian teams are ranked above him.
Qualification plans to determine Canadian entries for Beijing were revised by Curling Canada this summer due to the pandemic.
In addition to the Trials Direct Entry event, a Pre-Trials Direct Entry competition -- also with men's and women's draws -- is running this week in the nation's capital.
Teams in the latter event are gunning for spots in the Oct. 26-31 Home Hardware Pre-Trials in Liverpool, N.S., a competition that will fill out the field for the main Nov. 20-28 Trials in Saskatoon.
"From a selfish point of view, it's great for us," Howard said in a recent interview from Ottawa. "It gives us two chances to get back to the Trials and we were lucky enough to be involved in one right away. So we're pretty pleased to be involved with this."
Rinks skipped by Howard, Flasch and Dunstone are joined by Team Mike McEwen and Team Jason Gunnlaugson in that field. They're hoping to join Team John Epping, Team Brad Gushue, Team Brad Jacobs, Team Kevin Koe and Team Brendan Bottcher in Saskatoon.
The Women's Trials Direct Entry event, also in Ottawa, includes Team Suzanne Birt, Team Corryn Brown, Team Kelsey Rocque, Team Casey Scheidegger and Team Laura Walker.
Team Jennifer Jones, Team Rachel Homan, Team Kerri Einarson and Team Tracy Fleury have already locked up berths for the Trials.
Canada did not reach the podium in the four-player team curling events in Pyeongchang. The Beijing Games are set for Feb. 4-20.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2021.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press