July 21st, 2024

Edmonton’s Selena Sturmay a late addition to Canadian Open field

By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on January 16, 2024.

Canada's Brad Gushue opened the Grand Slam of Curling's Co-op Canadian Open with a 7-1 victory over Norway's Magnus Ramsfjell on Tuesday. Gushue yells as they take on Scotland in the second end of the gold medal game at the Men's World Curling Championship in Ottawa on Sunday, April 9, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada’s Selena Sturmay has filled a late vacancy in the Co-op Canadian Open field, accepting an invitation to play in the Grand Slam event in a development that could impact the standings for the final entries in the national women’s curling championship.

Sturmay replaced Italy’s Stefania Constantini in the 16-team women’s field at the Grand Slam of Curling event in Red Deer, Alta. Constantini’s team withdrew on Sunday due to medical reasons, organizers said.

Sturmay, from Edmonton, was scheduled to make her Tier 1 Grand Slam debut on Tuesday night against Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones.

“It was definitely a goal of ours to make it into the Slams at some point throughout this season, if not next season,” Sturmay said Tuesday. “It’s definitely unfortunate that Team Constantini is sick. I don’t think that’s ever how you really want to be invited to a Slam.

“But at the end of the day, we’re happy to have this opportunity.”

A 16-team men’s competition will also be held at Servus Arena. Competition continues through Sunday.

Sturmay is among a group of five women’s teams separated by fewer than 10 points in the national rankings, which will be used to determine the final two entries for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

The top three of Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, Jones and Kerri Einarson of Camp Morton, Man., have already secured berths in the Feb. 16-25 playdowns in Calgary.

Einarson is defending champion while Homan and Jones have pre-qualified. Champions from the upcoming provincial and territorial playdowns will round out most of the 18-team field.

The final berth would normally go to the highest-ranked team that doesn’t win playdowns. However, a second berth is available due to Nunavut’s recent withdrawal, further intensifying an already tight race.

Sturmay’s inclusion in the Grand Slam field gives her an unexpected opportunity to earn valuable rankings points that could potentially tip the scales in her favour.

Entering play this week, Winnipeg’s Kaitlyn Lawes was in fourth place with 163.875 points. Ottawa’s Danielle Inglis (126.625) was fifth with a slim lead over Sturmay (125.625).

Corryn Brown (121.625) of Kamloops, B.C., was close behind in seventh, just ahead of No. 8 Kate Cameron (118.250) and No. 9 Jolene Campbell (117.313), both from Winnipeg, and Edmonton’s Serena Gray-Withers (108.563) at No. 10.

Sturmay, Lawes, Campbell and Cameron – with Chelsea Carey substituting at skip – are all entered in the Canadian Open.

“To do well in this bonspiel would be huge and give us an extra safety net,” Sturmay said.

The Grand Slam series – a five-event circuit that has been owned by Sportsnet since 2012 – said it has not had a team withdraw this close to the start of an event since the network started operating the series.

“Due to the last-minute nature of this development, the Grand Slam of Curling made the decision to invite the highest-ranked Alberta-based women’s team as of the December 18 qualification deadline,” a Sportsnet spokesperson said in an email.

“Edmonton’s Team Sturmay, ranked 26th in the world at the cutoff date, received and accepted the invitation.”

The men’s and women’s fields at the Canadian Open each feature 15 team entries based on world rankings along with the winner of the Grand Slam’s recent Tier 2 event. Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., and Calgary’s Brendan Bottcher won their morning round-robin games on a four-draw opening day.

Teams on the bubble for potential inclusion as so-called wild-card entries at the Canadian championships often chase points by entering bonspiels ahead of provincial/territorial championships.

Every point is valuable as teams attempt to boost their ranking in case they don’t win their playdowns.

It wasn’t immediately clear why organizers invited Sturmay over other teams that were positioned higher on the Dec. 18 ranking list.

Among international teams, Switzerland’s Xenia Schwaller was ahead in both year-to-date rankings and overall rankings (top six events this season plus 37.5 per cent of last season’s points). South Korea’s Seungyeon Ha and Japanese teams skipped by Ikue Kitazawa and Sayaka Yoshimura also had stronger overall rankings.

For domestic teams, Inglis, Brown, Christina Black of Halifax and Vancouver’s Clancy Grandy were ranked higher overall but Sturmay had the edge in the year-to-date list.

Travel issues and/or timing of provincial championships may have been concerns for potential invitees. Sturmay is entered in the Alberta playdowns starting Jan. 24.

A message left with Sportsnet requesting clarification on team selection wasn’t immediately returned.

All provincial and territorial championships will conclude by Jan. 28. Curling Canada is expected to confirm the full field for the Hearts shortly thereafter.

The national organization is no longer using wild-card designations for non-champion entries. Instead the province and skip surname will be used, a Curling Canada spokesman said in an email.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2024.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on X.

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