Lori Olson-Johns answered the call of duty when Crystal Webster recruited the Paul Kane High School teacher for a shot at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“It’s every Canadian athlete’s dream to wear a Maple Leaf on your back in your home country at the Olympics,” said Olson-Johns, the former third for the Cathy King rink at the 2005 and 2006 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. “We’re so excited and thrilled that we’re going to be part of the Roar of the Rings and that we’ve earned the right to be one of the top eight teams in Canada, searching for the right to be Team Canada. The stakes are high and we can’t wait for it to get started.”
The Roar of the Rings opens Sunday at Rexall Place with the women’s draw at 1 p.m. The first game for the Webster rink is against Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary, the bronze medallist at the 2006 Olympics.
The highest finisher in the women’s eight-team round robin qualifies for Saturday’s final at 6 p.m. The second and third place rinks advance into Friday’s semifinal at 6 p.m. Visit www.seasonofchampions.ca/rotr/ for schedules and results.
“For females especially this will be the biggest venue we have ever competed in,” Olson-Johns said. “I’m not sure you can pick out a dominant team so everyone is really on an even playing field. Everyone has earned the right to be there so it’s going to come down to consistent performances all week and getting yourself into that playoff run and having a handle on the ice and feeling confident and just execution in making your shots.”
Olson-Johns, 33, hooked up with the Calgary-based team at the 2009 Players’ Championship at Grande Prairie in April. She was anxious to play competitively after giving birth to her first child, Lexi, on Valentine’s Day.
“That presented some problems and obstacles for my previous team, even though I was back on the ice actually two weeks after she was born and I was throwing every day,” Olson-Johns said. “I was gearing up to try and play in the last event, the Players’ Championship, and my team at that time felt they wanted to try and go with someone else because I had been away for a couple of months. I told them if another team asks me I’m going to go because this is one of the last opportunities I can play on arena ice before the trials and that was actually what happened.”
Ironically, Webster was deep into her pregnancy when she called Olson-Johns to see if the former three-time Alberta junior champion was available for the Players’ Championship.
“She said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to play every game. Have you been throwing?’ I said I’ve been throwing every day so they asked me to go as the fifth for their team,” said Olson-Johns. “That was kind of the parting of the ways between Cathy King and I.”
Webster, third Desiree Owen, second Samantha Preston and lead Stephanie Malekoff earned their pre-trial spot at Grande Prairie, edging out Marla Mallett by a single point in the Canadian Team Ranking System qualification system.
With Owen scheduled to have a baby on Oct. 4, Olson-Johns was brought on board at third in pursuit of Olympic glory.
“Since Cathy’s team and myself had already discussed the fact they would be moving on with someone else, I was prepared to sit on the sideline and maybe be picked up as a fifth,” Olson-Johns said. “Obviously this is a dream come true. I’m actually in the same spot that I’ve worked five years towards. The goal was to get to the pre-trials and trials so it’s worked out beautifully for me.
“I’m extremely fortunate these girls felt I was the player to come into their squad and help attain our goals. I’m sure they had choices of many great curlers in Alberta so I was very excited and fortunate when they asked me.”
Olson-Johns had curled against her new rinkmates but never played with them.
“I’ve had a ton of respect for them. They are one of the nicest teams on the tour. They’re great shooters. They’re committed to the game. I’ve always respected them as people and as players so it’s an easy fit to join a team such as that. It’s just been wonderful. We’ve gelled so well together.”
They were lights out at last month’s pre-trials at Prince George while rattling off four straight wins, including the A event qualifier, 8-7 over Kelly Scott of Kelowna.
“The biggest thing was we had strong finishes. If you take a look at some of the line scores we were down leading into the end of the game and the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th ends we just turned it up and really put the pressure on our opponents,” said Olson-Johns. “The girls were playing great and Crystal made her last shots and that’s how you win curling games.”