Bernard's win at Canadian trials a surprise
Considering she had never won a Grand Slam event or any other major tournament as a skip, Cheryl Bernard’s victory in the Canadian curling trials, popularly known as the Roar of the Rings, came as a huge surprise.
Bernard, a four-time provincial champion in Alberta and at 43 the oldest skip in the field, led her team to a 6-1 record in round-robin play and a direct berth into the final. There, the Bernard rink edged the Shannon Kleinbrink rink, 7-6, with Bernard scoring the decisive point on her final rock to earn the trip to the Vancouver Games. Kleinbrink was the 2006 Olympic bronze medallist.
Earlier in the round robin, Bernard stunned the defending world champion and trials favourite Jennifer Jones, 8-5.
"I crawled into bed around 5 a.m., and I was awake off and on," Bernard told The Calgary Herald the day after the final in Edmonton. "I kept waking up, thinking, 'Oh my God!' And then I’d fall back asleep for a second.
"The coolest thing? That we’re Olympians."
The victory capped a frustrating four-year run that saw Bernard and her teammates Susan O’Connor, Carolyn Darbyshire and Cori Bartel establish themselves as one of Canada’s better women’s teams but without winning a signature event.
Born in Grande Prairie, Alta., Bernard learned to curl as an eight-year-old. Her late father, Bernie, helped get her started.
Bernard reached her first Alberta provincial final in 1988, and lost. Her first provincial title came in 1992. Four years later, she won again, and went on to finish second in Canada’s national championship tournament, the Tournament of Hearts.
For more than a decade, Bernard tried and failed to get back to the Tournament of Hearts. Things began to change after Darbyshire and Bartel joined her for the 2005-06 season. The Bernard rink finished third on the World Curling Tour money list and took second in the inaugural Players’ Championships for women.
Bernard finally qualified for Hearts in 2007, and again in 2009, but did not win a medal either time. That made her trials victory so unexpected, and so emotional.
"It feels amazing," Bernard told The Calgary Herald. "We’ve lost some finals and my team stuck with it. We won the big one, finally, and it’s worth all the pain we’ve gone through the last five years.
"I thought of my dad when I was up there singing O Canada. And as much as I’m not a believer in that stuff, I hope he was watching it all."
The only other time Bernard competed internationally, in 2004 at the Karuizawa International Bonspiel in Japan, she won, beating Debbie McCormick in the final. McCormick is skipping the United States Olympic team in Vancouver.
Bernard is married to Terry Meek, who is also a competitive curler.