Like Randy Ferbey, and then Colleen Jones, "the old bear" Kevin Martin was eliminated with a loss to the rampaging Brad Gushue/Russ Howard quintet this morning.
Two Olympic Games – one of them silver-lined – and a Trials runner-up finish in 1997 are all that's left. There will be no chance for golden redemption in 2006.
Just like yesterday's UEFA Cup crashout of footie legends Manchester United, it's out with the old and in with the new. These Trials are offering up fresh faces for your cheering contention. Our first glimpse of this happened in February's STOH, where two of the Trials' leaders – Kelly Scott and Stefanie Lawton – made the playoffs.
All four atop the leaderboard – Scott and Lawton and Gushue and Calgary's John Morris – are former world junior champions. And fairly recently, not in the mid-80's like Martin.
It says here that of those four, Morris (photo) looks the most dangerous, despite this morning's loss to the vanquished Glenn Howard. What a great display of management skills he showed off yesterday in beating Martin. The young turks did three things with that match: a) guaranteed themselves something, at minimum a tiebreaker; b) gave themselves a big boost of confidence heading into all-critical Thursday; and c) showed their newfound maturity in favouring a more conservative, unflashy style of play – the opposite of the big money shotmaker from Edmonton.
In short, Johnny Mo and company look ready to become Olympians. Tonight's climactic draw will might reinforce or challenge that verdict.
The win echoed their victory over Martin in the 2004 Players' Championship final, but reversed last month's stunning loss to Martin at The National, where Martin made the Shot Of The Year (see November 4 post in the Archives).
That doesn't mean all savvy veterans are out of the picture. 1998 golden gals Team Jan Betker are hanging around, along with Shannon Kleibrink and Sherry Middaugh, as is legendary Pat Ryan (barely). The best of this group looks to be Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton, who are starting to roll as they have so often on the Ultima World Curling Tour.