SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – The sting of losing the Olympic trials final to Jennifer Jones four years ago is still very raw for longtime Canadian skip Sherry Middaugh.
She lost the right to represent Canada in Sochi, losing to Jones 8-4 in Winnipeg.
"Even though it was four years ago, it still hurts. I didn't play well in that final. To come out flat in an important game like that is disappointing because you don't get that chance very often."
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At 51, Middaugh is the oldest women's skip at this week's Olympic pre-trial event – dubbed Road to the Roar. Her career has spanned nearly 30 years, starting in Saskatchewan. She represented the Prairie province in 1996 before moving to Ontario. She would end up winning the right to represent Ontario at six Scotties, finishing third on four separate occasions.
In many respects, Middaugh's career has been defined by being close so many times, but never quite being able to finish.
"There are regrets and disappointments but it's been a fun run," she said.
This will be Middaugh's last attempt to earn the right to wear the maple leaf at the Olympics. "I'm not ready to do another Olympic cycle. It's hard. Everyone has families. I did it, done it."
Middaugh has played in five out of the six Olympic trials since 1997. Now, in her final attempt to reach the sporting pinnacle, she's taking the long road just to earn a spot in Ottawa (Roar of the Rings) at the beginning of December.
"It is called Road to the Roar for a reason and you think, oh my gosh," Middaugh said. "We didn't play well enough to get a direct trial spot."
Strong start in Summerside
Middaugh's Ontario rink started Thursday with a 2-1 record after three games. In the afternoon draw she came up against Krista McCarville, a game Middaugh knew was going to be pivotal.
She was able to rise to the occasion, scoring three in the final end to win 7-5 and move into a tie for first place in Pool B.
"I think when we looked at the schedule we wanted to get off to a good start," Middaugh said. "We knew coming here we were one of the favourites but when you have a field like this, we come in with a lot of pressure. We tried to come in here and not look at the big picture. It's one game at a time."
As the playoffs near, Middaugh knows the pressure is only going to increase, especially knowing this is her last kick at all of this. The team has rented a home about 30 minutes from the venue and is trying to keep things light by indulging in local food and spirits.
"There's usually wine involved," Middaugh laughed. "Seafood pasta, pork tenderloin tonight, lobster, food, fun and we're playing well."
For as much fun as they're having, Middaugh knows her many years of experience could be a big factor in the high stakes games later in the week.
"I think by the end of the week you're going to feel the collar getting a little tighter around the neck because this is it for me. You have to cherish the opportunities when they come. It's a lot of hard work."