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Friday, 15 January 2016

#BetweenTheSheets With Cheryl Bernard
#TwineTime speaks with the 2010 Olympic Silver Medalist in Banff

2010 Olympic pic of Cheryl Bernard snapped by #TwineTime live at the games!
The TSN Pinty's All-Star Skins Game was a true delight to attend as a blogger.  To be so close to the action on the ice and with the athletes off the ice, it is a moment I will always remember.  Now, in my recent Sounds from Banff blog post, I hinted at a special guest interview I was able to have while in Banff.  Time to let the cat out of the bag folks: Welcome Cheryl Bernard to the #TwineTime interview family!!

For those who may not be as familiar with the sport of #curling as others (which is ok, hopefully this blog and increased coverage is helping to #growthesport), let me give you a quick #RunnerGunback to the career of Cheryl Bernard:
  • 4-time Alberta Champion
  • 4 Scotties Tournament of Hearts appearances, including a silver medal finish in 1996
  • 2009 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials Champion, earning the right to represent Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC
  • 2010 Winter Olympic Silver Medalist
  • Retired from competitive curling in June 2014
  • Joined TSN as a curling analyst in 2014 and is now a full member of the broadcast team
  • Co-wrote two books on the mental aspects of curling: Between The Sheets: Creating Curling Champions (2005) and Between The Sheets: The Silver Lining (2011)

At the conclusion of the men's final in Banff, I was fortunate enough to have a few minutes to talk with Bernard about the state of women's curling, the future of the sport and what exactly do you do with an Olympic medal after you win one:

TwineTime (TT):  With the women's final earlier in the day, how did you think the game went?  And how do you feel about the direction of women's curling right now?

Cheryl Bernard (CB):  You know what, it just get's better and better every year with women's play.  You talk about Jones and they lead the way.  Homan this year has been really dominant and I think all the teams behind are trying to learn new things and try new stuff to catch the leader.  I think that builds on the game every time.

TT:  For sure.  We are also seeing in the women's game strong international growth as well.  That has to help #growthesport as well.

CB:  It does.  It hasn't been as deep in some of the countries but I think the Olympics help.  Korea is building on their teams because they hold the Olympics in 2018.  I think a lot of those countries want to improve.  The numbers maybe aren't as good for them so they don't have the depth but they are really working on it.

TT:  Speaking of the Olympics, I was in Vancouver watching you.  I have some amazing shots of you on the ice while I was watching...it was crazy!  Do you ever look back on that and what is that Olympic experience like?

CB:  It was amazing.  The two big experiences: the trials in Edmonton and the Olympics in Vancouver.  You can't really say much and how great it is playing the Olympics in your own country for Canada and wearing the maple leaf.  It was probably one of...well actually was the highlight of my curling career.  It's great to be at these types of events and see the women.  The game is really evolving.  There is more money in it.  They are getting as much money as the men now, which I think is really good.  It's on TV every weekend.  You can see curling and it's great to help attract sponsors and help build the game.

TT:  Excellent.  Ok now if you could be in charge of changing the sport right now to evolve it, what do you think needs to happen next?

CB:  You know my concern, I think, is the playdowns and the number of entries in playdowns.  What I am seeing happening is because you have this elite level, the average team that maybe cannot dedicate the time doesn't want to go in playdowns because they are not going to beat these teams.  You may have to start doing something different where the elite teams maybe don't get to play in the playdowns or maybe it is a different set of playdowns for the B league teams.  I worry about the numbers in playdowns because that is where all of us came from.  I think a lot of the World Curling Tour you really would like to get new teams in there.  Maybe you drop the bottom two teams out and let in some new blood that's winning and doing well and that builds the sport as well.  You don't want to make it too elite or people start losing interest.

TT:  For sure.  So do you think what they did at the Tour Challenge this year, having the Tier I and Tier II and moving up the Tier II winners to the next grand slam event is something that potentially could be looked at?

CB:  I loved it!  I hope they do it more.  I think what it does, with Cotter winning and Einarson winning coming out of the Tier II, they never would have had the opportunity.  And then they did very well.  I hope they continue to do that because otherwise it is kind of incestuous where you have the same group of curlers playing over and over again.  You need to let other teams that are playing well, not just let them in they have to win their way in, but you have to give them a chance to get in there and compete. 

TT:  100%.  Now moving up to the booth, how are you enjoying it up there?

CB:  You know, it's great!  The first year was nerve-wracking I have to say.  I am enjoying it.  It's an amazing way to stay in a game that I love and didn't really want to leave.  But you know you have to understand that when the time has come that you're done.  I really had to do that. 

TT:  Is the urge still there to step back onto the ice and keep curling?

CB:  *laughing*  All the time it is.  You know every now and then you see a shot or a win or game and you think 'Oh I'd love to be back out there' but, in reality, I also look at these teams and the amount of work they are putting into it, I don't know I would have that anymore.  It's definitely something I haven't thought about often but every now and again you walk out onto the ice, even doing the pre-game taping, and you are at ice level you think 'I'd love to be back'.

TT:  So the passion is always there?

CB:  Absolutely!

TT:  So big question for you....where do you keep your medal from Vancouver?

CB:  *laughing*  That medal is all over the place.  I do a lot of speaking still so the medal goes with me so that does tend to happen and travel with me.  Lots of times its in my car.  Sometimes in my briefcase.

TT: *laughing*  Wow!

CB:  *laughing*  Yeah, I know, it's sad.  I probably shouldn't tell anybody that.  I use it a lot and share it with a lot of people because, you know, we won it with the help of Canadians.  We share it wherever we go so it does travel a lot.  It has more air miles than I do.

TT:  That is excellent to hear you do that.  I am sure people love seeing it.  Now I heard the IOC tells you when you get the medal that you are supposed to lock it up and not take it out with you when you go.

CB:  Yeah I know.  They tell you that.  They won't replace it either.

TT:  Oh yeah, that's right.

CB:  Nope, they won't.  But I guess I have never had a situation where I was ever worried about it.  I don't know what anybody else would ever do with it.  Worse case is if it's gone, it's gone.  But I still know I won it.  *laughing*

TT:  *laughing*  That is very true.  They can never take the win away from you on home ice right?

CB:  No, they can't.

TT:  Excellent.  Well, thank you so much.  I very much appreciate it.  I am a huge fan.

CB:  Thank you so much.  Thank you for doing this.

TT:  All the best and thank you.

CB:  Take care.

I am not sure I could have experienced a better way to end my time in Banff last weekend than having the opportunity to chat with Cheryl Bernard.  I cannot thank her enough for taking the time to talk with me at the conclusion of a very busy weekend.  My biggest regret though: not asking for a selfie after the interview with Cheryl!  Perhaps next time we see one another, let's make this happen?

For a full recap of all the #TwineTime player interviews from the TSN Pinty's All-Star Curling Skins Game, please check out the Sounds of Banff blog HERE.

Now looking forward, many teams are currently competing in Las Vegas at the Continental Cup.  Back home in Canada, Scotties provincial championships are starting to take place this weekend and next week.  This is when the Season of Champions start to get quite serious.  The opportunity to win a provincial title and represent your home province on the national stage at the Scotties means everything to teams/players....and the #RoadToGP starts now!

I will be doing live coverage of games at the Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts here in Calgary for CurlingGeek, beginning next week.  Stay tuned to twitter for exact dates/times and match ups.  Stay up to date on all the exciting provincial action through CurlingZone...and maybe wish CZ founder Gerry Geurts a Happy Birthday if you didn't do so earlier this week.


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