Perhaps only in Canada would there be concern and confusion over why Rachel Homan’s team dropped their original alternate, Cheryl Kreviazuk, for retired curler Cheryl Bernard to go to the Olympics — but this is where we’re at in this curling-crazed country.
Since the announcement Monday, fans, players and alike have been questioning the move.
In a lot of ways, though, it’s really simple and here’s why.
Curling Canada has a set criteria for alternate selections based on a variety of factors, “including international playing experience, making critical decisions during the heat of the game and ability to perform on the world stage.”
In fact, Kreviazuk was aware she wasn’t going to be able to join the team at the Olympics based on the criteria prior to the trials in Ottawa last month.
“We discussed with her still being our alternate at the Roar [Olympic trials] because she has been such valuable alternate and friend to us through Scotties and the world championship and she agreed. We love Cheryl for all the support she’s given us and continues to give,” Team Homan said in a statement to CBC Sports.
Rachel Homan calling
Just a couple of days after winning their Olympic berth, Homan phoned Bernard.
At the time of the call, Bernard thought Homan was phoning for advice on the Games. After all, Bernard played in the most pressure-packed Olympics imaginable — 2010 in Vancouver.
“When Rachel called I said congratulations on an incredible run. And I said I expected this call but not this soon and she kind of hesitated,” said Bernard. “She said, ‘I don’t know if we’re talking about the same thing.'”
Moments later Homan asked Bernard to join them as an alternate on their Olympic journey.
“I didn’t hesitate for a second to say I would be more than honoured to jump on board with a team like this.”
The team is just as thrilled about Bernard joining them.
“We are thrilled to have someone with Olympic experience join us. Cheryl Bernard brings a lot to our team in terms of being a positive influence and able to play any position.”
Experience and perspective
Bernard laughs a bit when people call her a retired curler. She’s curled out of the Calgary Curling club with her 2010 Olympic team for the last 10 years. She works out almost daily, as if she was training to go to the Games. In a lot of ways, Bernard has been preparing for this for a while and has ramped it up over the last month.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that I could step in with a lot of confidence. I know I can throw. I’ve stayed in really good shape. It’s something I don’t have a lack of confidence over,” she said.
The 51-year-old skipped Canada to a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games and had been working as an analyst since retiring from competition in 2014.
During her career, Bernard was a four-time provincial champion and made four appearances at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, with her best finish being in 1996 when she was a runner-up. In 2010, Bernard picked up her lone Grand Slam victory at the Players’ Championship.
Now eight years after that Olympic silver medal, she’s heading back to the Olympics.
“I get choked up. It’s an honour mostly because I hope I can be part of this team and help a little bit along the way. I’m proud these girls had the belief in me,” Bernard said.
Bernard says in a lot of ways she knows this team better than most, having called so many of their games on TV over the last four years.
“You hear some stuff. You see things. The respect I have [and] the growth I’ve seen in this team is remarkable.”
But above all, Bernard has the experience of the Olympics, something she believes can be of huge benefit to Team Homan.
“It’s a different animal. You can’t make it bigger than it is,” she said. “The one thing they don’t have that I have on them is age. That gives you perspective.”