SUMMERSIDE – Shannon Kleibrink knows what to expect.
Kleibrink and her Alberta rink from the Okotoks Curling Club begin round-robin play in the 2017 Home Hardware Road to the Roar Pre-Trials curling competition at Eastlink Arena against Theresa Breen of Halifax, N.S., at noon on Tuesday.
“We’re excited,” said the 49-year-old Kleibrink, who has experience in both the Road to the Roar and the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifying event. “We’ve been waiting for this for a year, and glad to get here and see it’s such an amazing venue. The ice is great, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow (Tuesday).”
A total of 28 teams – 14 men’s and 14 women’s – are competing in Summerside this week. Two men’s and two women’s berths are at stake for the Roar of the Rings in Ottawa from Dec. 2 to 10. That event will determine the Canadian men’s and women’s four-person curling teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from Feb. 9 to 25.
Kleibrink, who enters as the No. 8 seed, has past experiences to draw on. She went 1-3 in the 2013 Road to the Roar Pre-Trials, won the 2005 Roar of the Rings and went on to win a bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Pinerolo, Italy. Kleibrink also finished second at Canada’s Olympic qualifying event in 2009 and 1997.
“You don’t want to look too far down the road,” said Kleibrink. “Take one game at a time. The ice conditions can change, so you want to go out there with an open mind every game.”
Although Kleibrink agreed a good start to the round robin is important, she also pointed out it is not essential.
“The year I won the Olympic trials we had an 0-3 start,” said Kleibrink in an interview with the Journal Pioneer following a team practice on Monday afternoon. “You can do it from the other side, but it’s one game at a time.”
This week marks Kleibrink’s first time curling in Summerside. She has played in national softball tournaments on P.E.I., and also curled in the mixed nationals in Charlottetown.
Kleibrink’s rink also includes third stone Sarah Wilkes, second stone Kalynn Park and left-handed lead Alison Thiessen.
“Ally is the perfect lead,” said Kleibrink in describing her team. “She has lots of curl, and our middle two throw as hard as any two in the women’s game now. It’s really nice to have them in front of me.”
Kleibrink said she and her teammates feature a balanced attack.
“We will go on the offensive some times, but we are not an aggressive team,” said Kleibrink. “We are kind of in the middle.”