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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Two pre-Olympic trials events will open RA Centre’s Curling Centre of Excellence

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

The RA Centre’s new Curling Centre of Excellence will be christened in grand style next month with the concurrent running of two national playdowns related to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Curling Canada will stage its Trials Direct-Entry and Pre-Trials Direct-Entry events Sept. 22-26 on the five-sheet, stadium-style ice surface, which was a hockey arena until COVID-19 got the RA to rethink its full operation.

Read More: ‘We’re the whole family’s RA’ is the guiding philosophy behind RA Centre redevelopment

The multi-year project will complete Phase 1 next month as the hockey ice becomes curling ice. The most essential changes are a new dehumidification and heating systems and LED lighting. There also will be two practice sheets.

“Curling has a strong following across the country and is growing in Ottawa,” RA Centre CEO Tosha Rhodenizer said in a news release. “The project will develop a facility that will support the sport in a comprehensive manner.

“The RA is creating a dynamic curling environment that will promote this growth through the expansion of youth, para and stick-curling programs and the integration of Long-Term Development in sport principles.”

The curling programming will centre around the long-standing and successful RA Curling Club leagues, activities and learn-to-curl initiatives. High-performance training camps and specialty curling clinics are in future plans.

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The RA, which is more than 70 years old on Riverside Drive, also plans to add “vibrant social spaces and lounges as well as modern and accessible dressing rooms” to the curling club in the coming years.

The RA Centre – which renovated much of its west wing in recent years to welcome around 40 national and provincial sports organizations to the House of Sport – faced many challenges due to COVID.

“The pandemic has created incredible hardship for the RA and forced some tough decisions,” the RA explained in its Frequently Asked Questions section about the Curling Centre of Excellence.

“This has to happen now or never. In order for the RA to continue to work towards financial stability, these types of projects can’t be pushed back to allow an adjustment period.

“While we appreciate this is a change for our members, having curling start in a new space this fall is a vital step towards our recovery.”

The club’s 2021-22 curling season is expected to start Oct. 4.

But before that, Curling Canada will stage two concurrent events, to qualify three women’s and two men’s teams for the 2021 Tim Hortons Curling Trials, and two men’s and two women’s rinks for the Home Hardware Pre-Trials.

The five women’s teams eyeing the Olympic trials Nov. 20-28 in Saskatoon are: Suzanne Birt, Charlottetown; Corryn Brown, Kamloops, B.C.; Casey Scheidegger, Lethbridge; and Kelsey Rocque and Laura Walker, both of Edmonton.

The five men’s rinks are: Matt Dunstone, Regina; Colton Flasch, Saskatoon; Jason Gunnlaugson, Winnipeg; Glenn Howard, Penetanguishene, ON.; and Mike McEwen, Winnipeg.

Cheryl Kreviazuk, who served as alternate with Team Homan during their 2018 Canadian Olympic trials victory, will compete as part of Lauren Mann’s rink for a spot at the 2022 Pre-Trials at the RA Centre in late September. File photo

Playing in the women’s triple-knockout draw for the Pre-Trials Direct-Entry event Oct. 26-31 in Liverpool, N.S. are: Abby Ackland, Winnipeg; Jill Brothers, Halifax; Kerry Galusha, Yellowknife; Lauren Mann, Ottawa; Jessie Hunkin, North Battleford, SK; Laurie St-Georges, Laval; and Sarah Wark, Abbotsford, B.C.

Competing in the men’s Pre-Trials draw for two spots are: Corey Chambers, Jacques Gauthier, Sean Grassie, William Lyburn, JT Ryan and Ryan Wiebe, all of Winnipeg; Shaun Meachem, Saskatoon, and Vincent Roberge, Etchemin, PQ.

The women’s rinks earning berths from the RA event will join the following teams for the Pre-Trials: Sherry Anderson, Saskatoon; Penny Barker, Moose Jaw, SK.; Hollie Duncan, Woodstock, ON,; Jacqueline Harrison, Dundas, ON.; Danielle Inglis, Mississauga; Krista McCarville, Thunder Bay; Jestyn Murphy, Mississauga; Beth Peterson and Darcy Robertson, both of Winnipeg; and Mackenzie Zacharias, Altona, MB.

The men’s Pre-Trials qualifiers are: Jonathan Beuk, Kingston; Braden Calvert, Winnipeg; Pat Ferris, Grimsby, ON.; Paul Flemming, Halifax; Mike Fournier, Montreal; Jeremy Harty, Calgary; Pat Simmons, Winnipeg; Karsten Sturmay, Edmonton; and Tyler Tardi, Langley, B.C.

Nine rinks – five men’s and four women’s – have already advanced to the final Olympic trials based on a variety of criteria.

Brendan Bottcher of Edmonton, John Epping of Toronto, Brad Gushue of St. John’s, Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie and Kevin Koe of Calgary have their names on the men’s draw.

The early qualifiers for the women’s Olympic Trials draw are Rachel Homan of Ottawa, Kerri Einarson of Gimli, MB, Tracy Fleury of East St. Paul, MB, and Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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