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Scotties Tournament of Hearts ready to rock the Okanagan

Click to play video '2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Opening Day' 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Opening Day
The 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts kicked off with the opening ceremonies in Penticton on Saturday. Jules Knox reports on how athletes are preparing for the tournament. – Jan 27, 2018

The 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts kicked off in Penticton on Saturday.

“We’re super excited,” B.C.’s skip Kesa Van Osch said. “We can’t wait to play.”

Van Osch hurried hard in the Scotties four years ago, but this will be the first time with her two sisters by her side.

“On the ice we’re teammates first, then sisters, so we really like to hold to that,” Van Osch said. “When we’re off the ice, we’re sisters, then teammates.

“So it works really well because you know the right thing to say to them or the wrong thing to say to them,” she added.

READ MORE: Shannon Birchard to play for Jennifer Jones at national Scotties

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Sixteen teams will compete in the tournament, which is four more than last year.

Each team will play seven round-robin games, with the top four teams in each pool advancing to the championship pool.

“You can’t really start out slow,” Van Osch said. “When you have a large round robin, you can have a game or two that’s not your best, but when you only have a short pool game, you’ve got to kind of come out of the gate right away and keep going.”

READ MORE: Penticton prepares to host Canadian Women’s Curling Championship for first time

The tournament is expected to draw 3,000 out-of-town visitors.

“The Scotties typically generate anywhere from six to $12 million for a host community,” Al Cameron, Curling Canada’s spokesperson, said. “That’s hotel rooms, that’s restaurants, that’s shopping, even purchases here at the arena. That’s a big reason why this event is so popular.”

READ MORE: At least $6 million in economic impact as Penticton prepares to host the Scotties

Penticton’s mayor Andrew Jakubeit is hoping the Scotties will help renew interest in curling.

Because it’s a slower time of year for tourism, the tournament has been beneficial for hotels and restaurants, he added.

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“It’s really exciting, you can see the energy and euphoria of holding a national championship,” Jakubeit said.

READ MORE: Penticton curling club sees spike in membership as Scotties kicks off

Rick Folk, Team Saskatchewan’s coach, is a two-time world curling champion.

“No matter who you are, you’re going to be nervous going into that first game,” he said.

Folk had some advice for those hitting the ice: “Just be yourself. That’s really all there is. Once you get out on the ice, everything’s the same, the rock weighs 40 pounds, and all that remains the same.”

As for Van Osch, her ultimate goal is to beat Team Canada.

The winners of the Scotties will head to the world championship in North Bay, Ontario for March 17.

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