OLDS, Alta. — There were plenty of hugs and tears across the sheets Saturday afternoon in the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup at the Olds Sportsplex.
Tracy Fleury, Brendan Bottcher and Jason Gunnlaugson all bid farewell to their teams following their quarterfinal exits in the season-ending Pintys Grand Slam of Curling tournament while Rachel Homan said goodbye to lead Joanne Courtney, who is stepping back from the sport, after their team was also eliminated.
Fleury, whose team is based in East St. Paul, Man., fell 8-3 to South Korea’s Team Eun-Ji Kim. Bottcher from Edmonton was bounced in a 6-3 set to Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L. Gunnlaugson of Winnipeg lost 6-2 against Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Homan from Ottawa was ousted with a 5-3 loss to Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man.
Several teams are retooling their rosters for the next Olympic cycle. Fleury, who is from Sudbury, Ont., is joining Homan’s squad in a back-end role with Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes handling front-end positions.
Team Fleury third Selena Njegovan and lead Kristin MacCuish are sticking together to join Kaitlyn Lawes’ new club while second Liz Fyfe is linking up with Chelsea Carey.
Bottcher has parted ways with third Pat Janssen, second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin. The three-time Grand Slam champion Bottcher is starting with a clean slate adding third Marc Kennedy (Team Jacobs), second Brett Gallant (Team Gushue) and lead Ben Hebert (Team Koe). Thiessen and Martin are off to join Koe along with third Tyler Tardi.
Gunnlaugson, who is switching to third, and lead Connor Njegovan are joining skip Reid Carruthers and second Derek Samagalski.
Earlier Saturday, Einarson earned a 7-4 win over Team Eun-Jung Kim of South Korea in a tiebreaker to qualify for the final playoff spot.
Sweden’s Team Hasselborg (5-0) and Switzerland’s Team Silvana Tirinzoni (4-1) held byes to the semifinals as the top seeds. Hasselborg will play Einarson and Tirinzoni takes on Gim.
Team Niklas Edin (4-1) of Sweden goes up against Gushue and Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe (4-1) clashes with Jacobs on the men’s side.
Both finals are set for Sunday.
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup is the fourth and final Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the 2021-22 season featuring 12 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams who have won top tour titles in order to qualify. … A combined $210,000 prize purse is up for grabs with the winning teams earning $25,000 plus berths to next year’s KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup. … The 2022-23 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling campaign kicks off with the Boost National, Oct. 4-9, at Memorial Gardens in North Bay, Ont.