Kerri Einarson looked at Facebook on Friday and saw a memory flash across the screen from March 2020, before life as she knew it stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There she stood at Winnipeg’s Fort Rouge Curling Club, preparing to set off for Sweden and its first women’s curling world championship.
It turned out that her trip was delayed by three years.
“All of a sudden, it’s cancelled,” Einarson said Friday after training at the same curling club to prepare for the 2023 women’s curling world championships in Sandviken, Sweden.
“When we got the phone call, we were quite upset. I had quite a few tears and felt very angry. But now, having this opportunity, it’s an absolutely amazing feeling.”
Fresh off winning a fourth Canadian women’s championship, Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Harris fly to Sweden in pursuit of their first world title.
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“Bring Gold Back to Canada”
Canada opens the tournament on Friday, March 18 in the first shootout game against host Sweden. The playoffs begin on March 25.
“Our No. 1 goal is to bring the gold back to Canada,” said Einarson, of Gimli, Man. “We have some unfinished business to take care of.”
Einarson’s foursome missed out on competing at worlds in 2020 due to the pandemic and then finished a disappointing sixth at the 2021 world championships held inside the Calgary bubble.
Einarson and her crew settled for bronze.
“The bronze medal last year was another kind of stepping stone for them,” said Colleen Jones, who skips the only other Canadian women’s team to win four straight Scotties Tournament of Hearts (2001-2004). “And the world championships are just tough, period.
“I mean, every team there is a strong, strong team that doesn’t fear anybody.”
Some Canadians may still think this is the most dominant curling nation on the planet, but Canada has won just two of the last 13 women’s worlds. Jennifer Jones avoided the last Canadian team to win a women’s world title in 2018.
“There are definitely no free spaces on the bingo card at the worlds,” Sweeting said. “Everyone is going to be very tough.”
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The chemistry is obvious
Traditionally, international curling teams have an advantage over their Canadian competition due to roster stability. They’ve trained with the world championship in mind – unlike Canadian rinks who also look out for the Scots – and tend to stick together as a team as opposed to playing musical chairs.
But Einarson and her teammates met in 2018. And the chemistry is evident.
Well, they used to. But this year, reigning world champion Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland lost two members of her team to retirement in Esther Neuenschwander and Melanie Barbezat.
“We know Silvana is an amazing player and if the team struggles in front of her, she can usually stand on her head,” Birchard said. “So we will definitely have to give our best against them.
“They certainly present a challenge.”
Briar Schwaller-Hurlimann and Carole Howard are the two new faces of Team Switzerland.
“It was an incredibly strong foursome,” Jones said. “But now they have two newbies in the team and how will they perform? Who knows;
“Kerry’s team has four years together and that will serve them well.”
Harris is challenged
The one question mark for Team Einarson is the status of Harris, who shot 97 percent in the leadoff in the Canadian final.
Harris, 30, was six months pregnant at the Scotties and will be seven when the playoffs begin in Sweden.
Fifth Krysten Karwacki is ready to step in if needed.
“If something went south and I couldn’t play for whatever reason, I really trust her to step in for me and play with the girls,” Harris said. “And I know he would do a great job.
“Well, there’s that lull, but I’ll try to play the whole thing if I can to get on with it.”