Chelsea Carey is about to live out her ultimate dream but understands it won't be easy.
Carey will skip Canada's rink at the women's curling world championship that begins this weekend in Swift Current, Sask. The daughter of former Brier champion Dan Carey says it's been a lifelong aspiration to don the Maple Leaf and represent her country in competition, but this tournament will be a challenge.
"It's been my dream since I was seven years old, I don't know how to phrase it any better than that," said Carey, who won her first Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and the right to represent Canada at the worlds, on Feb. 28. "My first dream was to represent my province and I didn't achieve that until I was 29.
"To then turn around two years later and wear the Maple Leaf, which was always the ultimate dream, is beyond words. I still don't think it's fully sunk in, but every day I wake up and it hits me a little bit more."
Carey was born and raised in Winnipeg and represented Manitoba in national competition until the 2014-15 season when she moved to Edmonton. In the spring of 2015 she moved south to Calgary, taking over as skip for two-time Canadian women's champion Heather Nedohin's rink. With Carey at the helm that team won the Alberta playdowns and went on to win a national title at the Tournament of Hearts.
That run of success is what has led Carey, third Amy Nixon, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Laine Peters and alternate Susan O'Connor to Swift Current and a shot at a world championship.
But Carey cautions fans the competition will be tough. Canada has not won gold in the event since Jennifer Jones's rink was crowned in 2008 and former world champions Eve Muirhead of Scotland and Binia Feltscher of Switzerland are both in this year's field, among other tough opponents.
"I think curling in Canada is no different than hockey . . . everybody still expects Canada to win the gold, that expectation never went away despite the fact that the parity is there," said Carey in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I definitely think that's the level of expectation.
"But certainly the world has come on very strong and you can see that from the bit of a drought we have from gold medals. We usually medal and do well but the lack of winning the past few years would certainly show how the rest of the world has become a powerhouse."
Coach Charley Thomas also emphasizes the competition will be steep at the worlds.
"I think all the teams that have had this international experience and experience playing on Grand Slam conditions (are top competition)," said Thomas. "Team like Muirhead from Scotland, (Anna) Sidorova from Russia, (Maria) Prytz from Sweden.
"Luckily for the girls they've played a lot of those teams and had good success against them."
Carey also believes home ice will give her team an advantage, with packed houses expected at the event in Swift Current's Credit Union i-Plex from Saturday to the final on Sunday, March 27.
"I couldn't have dreamed of a better place to play," said Carey. "Everybody keeps saying 'Don't you wish you were going somewhere like Switzerland?' I would much rather not. I'm really happy.
"I couldn't ask for more in my first worlds to be Team Canada in Canada, small-town Saskatchewan."