WINNIPEG — It took a while for Mike McEwen to get over the disappointment of having his Olympic dream fall short, but the 33-year-old former Brandonite has regrouped and is now focused on winning his first provincial men’s curling championship.
McEwen and his Winnipeg team of B.J. Neufeld, Matt Wozniak and Denni Neufeld finished in a tie for fourth place at the Roar of the Rings Olympic trials in Winnipeg in December, ending their hope of representing Canada in Sochi. Things were made even tougher when his wife, Dawn McEwen, and her team skipped by Jennifer Jones won the right to represent Canada at the Olympics.
It took a while for McEwen to get over his disappointment and his jealousy of his wife’s success, but a bonspiel in Scotland got him and his team refocused on their new goal of earning their first trip to the Brier.
"I kind of look at it as two seasons and that season is over and the second part of the season, 2014, is kind of like a reboot," he said. "It’s kind of like you get a reboot on the year to still make it a success. I wouldn’t say the motivation changed, I would say it stayed at a very high level. It hasn’t really dipped much."
McEwen and his team look focused through the first two days of the Safeway Championship in Winnipeg.
They beat Minnedosa’s Glenn Parrott 10-2 in their opener on Wednesday before topping Neepawa’s Kelly Robertson 10-4 on Thursday to reach today’s A-side qualifiers. The game against Robertson was close until McEwen put up a five-ender in the eighth.
McEwen, who will face Steen Sigurdson today, liked getting pushed a bit by Robertson and believes his first provincial men’s curling title is within his grasp if his team can continue to play well and find a way to carry on their momentum into Sunday.
"We’ve had difficulty on Sunday, so that would be our biggest challenge is to replicate some of the great performances we had before the championship day 24 hours later," McEwen said. "That’s the formula we’re trying to figure out."
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Parrott’s squad was the first team to bow out of the Safeway Championship after falling 11-4 to Virden’s Graham Freeman in Wednesday’s late draw. If Parrott had waited another minute, Dave Johnson’s team would have been the first to be eliminated, but the distinction didn’t bother Parrott’s foursome, which includes Scott Gray, Cory Parrott and Grant Spraggs.
"The guys were already talking about keeping the team together and coming back because they had so much fun," said Glenn Parrott, who finished 0-2. "We’d like to be here again for sure. We don’t play on this type of ice all the time, so that was one of the learning experiences for all of us to be able to make sure you aren’t lazy with the turn and you pop it. That was the biggest thing we brought out of all of this."
Gladstone’s Geoff Trimble was also eliminated in that draw.
Meanwhile, former Brandonite Grant Brown, who skipped a team from Thompson, played the minimum possible ends at the Safeway Championship. He lasted five ends against Stoughton on Wednesday and five more versus Brent Scales on Thursday before shaking hands and leaving the event.
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Carberry’s Braden Calvert and his Winnipeg-based Canadian junior championship team of Kyle Kurz, Lucas Van Den Bosch and Brendan Wilson received a standing ovation from the crowd as they were honoured before the late evening draw on Thursday.
For Calvert, it was a great experience that highlighted the support his team has received since going to the national championship.
"It’s pretty neat to be recognized for such a feat like a national championship," he said. "We’re really happy with all the support we got since we returned to Manitoba."