Justin Piercy - Tuesday Dec. 3, 2013 14:11 ET

Why the Canadian curling trials are more competitive than the Olympics

5 Questions with Mike Harris

With an 0-3 start, Kevin Koe may already be out of the running at the Roar of the Rings. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The Roar of the Rings is unofficially known as the most competitive curling bonspiel on the planet. Contrast this with other Olympic sports, which feature the absolute best in the world at the actual Winter Games.

Canada's depth is more pronounced in curling than any other sport. Canada boasts eight of the top 10 men's rinks in the world, and five of the top 10 women's teams, according to World Curling Tour rankings.

CBC curling commentator Mike Harris won the 1997 Canadian curling trials en route to a silver medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. We asked him for some insight on what the experience was like and what we can expect from this year’s edition in Winnipeg.

Justin Piercy: What do you remember most about your experience at the trials in 1997?

Mike Harris: We went in there really confident, we had won four or five events leading onto the trials, teams coming in hot generally have a better feeling.

There are no free games there. It’s just the teams that end up playing the best on the week that are going to win.

When we went through it my real memory of it was that we were really solid. We weren’t really concerned about playing anyone, obviously we respected everybody.

All eight teams that are there all have legitimate reasons why they can win.

JP: When you’re facing only seven other teams in such a high-stakes bonspiel, how stressful is it to lose a game? And at how many losses do you start to worry?

MH: Glenn [Howard] said himself, ‘playing OK isn’t good enough, we have to play really, really well to get through.’ If you can get to three or four wins early in the week it starts helping lighten the pressure of getting to the playoffs.

Every game is important. It’s a very short round robin with eight teams so every game is hugely important, you can’t take a half-day off. 

In the Brier there are 11 games, you can get away with one or two losses, but [at the Roar] two might be too many depending on how the playoff picture unfolds, you may be on the outside looking in.

JP: What about the teams that fought through the pre-qualifying tourney to get to the Roar — are they in better or worse shape for having to get here the ‘hard way?’

MH: Their confidence would’ve been really high coming in and that has a huge impact when it comes down to these teams at this level. John Morris, Val Sweeting, [Brad] Jacobs ... three of the teams that came through the pre-trials started undefeated. It says something about coming in hot.”

JP: After the grind through the Roar, are there other opportunities for the top curlers to test themselves before the Olympics?

MH: That’s the challenge, for the men especially, there are not that many high-stakes competitive events to play in. The women [have a few overseas] but put it this way, they are going to have to travel a fair amount. It’s a happy requirement, they’re going to travel to Europe and get in as many competitive games as they can.

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