NWT curler Kerry Galusha and her team will compete in a tournament this fall that could send them to pre-trials for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
It’s the first time a northern team has had such an opportunity, Galusha believes. Curling Canada announced what amounts to a “pre-pre-trial” on Tuesday, a workaround to the logistical challenges wrought by Covid-19.
Eight men’s and eight women’s teams, each chosen based on their World Curling Federation rankings, will compete in Ottawa from September 22 to 26 for two spots each in a subsequent pre-trial tournament in Nova Scotia a month later. That pre-trial tournament will in turn decide who fills out the actual Olympic trials before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin in February.
“Our jaws dropped when we got the email from Curling Canada,” Galusha said of getting a spot in September’s opening competition.
“We were like, ‘What? This is exciting!’
“Being from the North, it’s a really big deal. We still have a way to go, and we’re going to have to play well to get through, but at least we have that chance. It’s a sport; you go out on the ice and play, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Galusha has served as the NWT’s representative at women’s national curling competitions for years, most notably at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, where she has competed 18 times. Her team is ranked 43rd in the world.
‘Always the underdog’
The seasoned curler has never had a shot at the Olympics before.
“I can’t remember a team from the North being in an Olympic qualification round, off the top of my head,” Galusha said.
“We do struggle, living up here and trying to compete with the rest of Canada and trying to stay on the same level. It’s more expensive to travel for us, we all have jobs, so it’s just trickier for us living up in the North.
“We’re always the underdog no matter what, so it’s pretty exciting for us to make it to this event.”
An immediate challenge Galusha and her teammates must overcome is a lack of ice on which to train.
The curling rink in Yellowknife won’t be ready until October. Galusha said the team will instead head south a few weeks early to practise before the tournament.
If Galusha and her team qualify in September, they will move on to the pre-trials in Nova Scotia. They must advance through those to make it to the Canada-wide trials in Saskatoon, which will determine which teams represent Canada at the Olympics in 2022.
Four of Canada’s top-ranked women’s teams are already in the field for the Saskatoon tournament in November, including Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones, and 2020 Scotties champion Terri Einarson.
Galusha’s brother, Kevin Koe of Calgary – who led Team Canada’s men’s rink at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang – will be competing in the men’s field at the trials.
Galusha said her team feels confident in its chances of advancing this fall.
“The eight teams that are there, we’re all ranked pretty evenly,” she said. “We’ve played these teams before. I think any two of the eight can come out.
“This event is at the beginning of the season in September, so everyone’s going to be a little bit rusty.
“The two teams that come out will be the ones that are most consistent. I feel confident that going down two weeks before the event, getting some ice time and getting some games in, will really benefit us.”