Defending Scotties champ Team Einarson navigating COVID-19 curling season

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Every sport has been affected by the ongoing pandemic and curling is no different. Defending provincial and national champ Kerri Einarson and her foursome are still gearing up for a few upcoming bonspiels. Russ Hobson reports – Oct 20, 2020

Many of the nation’s top curling teams have yet to even step on the pebbled ice for an actual game yet this season.

“It’s been a little frustrating,” Kerri Einarson said.

Frustrating is probably a bit of an understatement for Einarson and her Gimli-based rink. After finally breaking through to win the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts, they were robbed of the chance to represent their country on the big stage at the World Women’s Curling Championship last spring when COVID-19 shut everything down. It’s only fueled their resolve to win again.

“When you think — representing Canada and getting so excited and all of a sudden a pandemic hits. It’s been tough,” Einarson said.

“It is what it is. We can’t doing anything about it, so we just kinda got to park it, and move on, and come back fighting even harder.”

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All the Grand Slams are cancelled through the month of March, but the defending Manitoba and national champs are still gearing up for a few upcoming bonspiels. After six months of not even touching a rock, her team is now back practicing again at the Granite Curling Club.

“It’s the longest off-season we’ve had in a long, long time,” Team Einarson second Shannon Birchard said.

READ MORE: Team Einarson captures Scotties Tournament of Hearts national title

At this point in the year, Team Einarson is usually criss-crossing the country, playing in countless bonspiels, but this season they won’t be playing an event until mid-November with their plans in constant flux.

“There were points where we didn’t know if we’d play at all,” Birchard said. “We don’t want to travel anywhere where we need to quarantine, so we’re looking west for the most part and staying mostly within Manitoba, Alberta.

“Making plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D for our entire season.”

And making it even tougher for them to navigate the coronavirus is the fact one their teammates, third Val Sweeting, lives two provinces away in Alberta. And during the day the skip works in a health care facility with elderly patients.

“Definitely don’t want to bring something into our facility,” Einarson said. “I got to be very careful of where I go, and what I do, and just making sure I’m doing my self-checks.”

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READ MORE: Scotties champ Einarson balances curling glory with work at Manitoba care home

When they do compete in their first event, they’ll have to adjust to some of the new COVID curling rules, like playing with masks, and only using one sweeper.

“That’s something we’re trying to work with,” Birchard said. “Just not having that person to communicate with down the ice is going to be a big change.”

“It’ll definitely be quite different,” Einarson said. “And then even with that person having to just follow them down the ice, and not really be in the moment. So that’ll be quite the change for us.”

The one thing they don’t have to worry about this season is a spot at the Olympic curling trials. By winning the Scotties, they are one of just two women’s teams to have already locked up their berth in the nine-team field for the 2021 Roar of the Rings.

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