Mike McEwen got a chance to experience the Olympics during an observer visit to London last summer.
He’ll have an opportunity to make his next appearance at the Games as an athlete.
McEwen and five other men’s skips have qualified for the Dec. 1-8 Canadian Curling Trials — the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
Six spots in the women’s draw have also been finalized with the four remaining berths (two men, two women) to be decided at a pre-trials event in November. The men’s and women’s winners of the Trials will represent Canada at the Sochi Games next year in Russia.
McEwen said he took advantage of an opportunity to go to the 2012 London Games when the Canadian Olympic Committee had a few observer spots available for curlers without world-level experience.
"The thing that stuck out for me I suppose was being in Canada House and all the family, friends and that kind of environment that’s there for the athletes," McEwen said Tuesday on a conference call. "It’s pretty electric when they’re celebrating somebody that wins a medal on any given night.
"Just that feeling probably stuck out the most."
The 32-year-old skip watched some diving, beach volleyball and soccer while in London. He felt the sheer scope of the Games was an eye opener.
"It gave me a really good perspective on how much preparation is really involved and underestimating that kind of stuff going into it is something that you definitely don’t want to do," he said. "And that can even apply to your own sport — whether it’s a national championship or a provincial championship — you can take things away on how to prepare and compete at whatever level you’re at."
McEwen called his London experience "overwhelmingly inspiring."
"I got a good view of all the distractions and everything that those athletes go through," he said. "It was definitely a good learning event and gave a lot of motivation and inspiration. It was all good and I can only imagine what it would be like actually competing in something like that myself.
"Even just as an observer, it was quite enlightening to be able to go to that."
McEwen earned a berth at the Trials through the two-year Canadian Team Ranking System standings. It rewards teams for consistent play over an extended period of time.
"It finally feels like we’re getting to go to the show," McEwen said of his team. "I guess when you combine that with playing in front of the home crowd, we’ve all talked about it and we all get goose bumps thinking about it. It’s going to be something that’s probably a little bit indescribable.
"We’re hoping the intensity, the adrenalin, hopefully we can use that as a good thing for our play on the ice."
Veteran skips Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., Kevin Martin of Edmonton and Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton all locked up berths in the Trials well before last week’s season-ending Grand Slam in Toronto. Three more spots were given to McEwen, Calgary’s Kevin Koe and Toronto’s John Epping from their results in the CTRS standings.
"I like our chances," McEwen said. "I like that in a lot of people’s eyes we’re a bit of an underdog. That’s definitely a role that’s not going to really hurt us. It’s just going to take an amazing performance for whichever team actually (wins) at the end of the day."
In women’s play, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin and Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton were the early women’s qualifiers. They’ll be joined by Rachel Homan of Ottawa, Sherry Middaugh of Victoria Harbour, Ont., and Winnipeg’s Chelsea Carey.
The draw for the Roar of Rings will be announced Friday.
A total of 24 teams (12 men, 12 women’s) will participate in the Nov. 5-10 Capital One Road to the Roar Pre-Trials at the Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, Ont. The official list of team entries will be released May 1.
Martin defeated Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud in the gold-medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Sweden’s Anette Norberg beat Canada’s Cheryl Bernard for the women’s title.
The 2014 Olympic curling competition will begin Feb. 10 at the Ice Cube Curling Center.