Cheryl Bernard of Calgary will chase $42

Cheryl Bernard of Calgary will chase $42

Big names in Vernon Curling Classic

Highly popular Betty Wang of China is coming out of retirement for the Vernon Curling Classic.

 

Her official name is Bingyu Wang, but everybody in Vernon affectionately called her Betty at the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championships in Vernon.

Wang was a huge fan favourite with her golden smile as her China rink made the finals before losing to Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg before a packed Wesbild Centre.

Wang, 31, will be among the favourites in the annual Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic starting Thursday afternoon in Vernon.

“Betty is making a comeback,” said curling club manager Dave Merklinger. “The total purse for the 24 women’s rinks will be close to $42,000. We expect this event to again be one of the premiere world-class curling events in Canada.”

Wang went in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics as the defending world champions.

Wang skipped her team to a 6–3 record in round-robin play, earning a spot in the medal round.

After losing to Sweden in the semifinals, China defeated Switzerland to win the bronze medal. The bronze was the first Olympic medal for China in curling and the first team medal for China in Winter Olympic history.

Cheryl Bernard will give Wang some serious competition in the Prestige Classic.

Bernard, 50, represented Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics. She has won the Classic a few times and while retired, uses the Vernon cashspiel as a reunion of sorts with teammates.

The Calgary veteran led her rink to a silver medal on home soil at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and also competed in four Scotties Tournament of Hearts events, winning a silver medal in 1996.

She was also the Canadian Women’s Curling Tour champion in 2004-05.

Aside from curling, Bernard also co-wrote Between the Sheets: Creating Curling Champions in 2005, a book about the mental aspects of curling, with journalist Guy Scholz.

She  joined TSN as a guest analyst for live coverage of the Seasons of Champions’ opening event, the 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup.

Vegreville’s Val Sweeting, who won Alberta Scotties in 2014 and 2015, is another favourite.

The women’s event will feature four pools of six teams with eight qualifiers. First draw is Thursday at 5 p.m. with the the final going Sunday at 4 p.m.

All games will be eight ends. A draw to the button will be used to determine the last rock of the first end in each game. The champions pocket $7,500, the runner-up $5,500. Semifinalists  received $4,000, while quarterfinalists earn $2,500 Round-robin wins are worth $100.

Vernon’s Kim Slattery will be a sleeper. The longtime curler will have youngster Alyssa Kyllo tossing skip rocks.

Defending Canadian and Alberta women’s champion Chelsea Carey, who plays out of the Glencoe club in Calgary. is also a contender.

Two-time World Junior champion skip Kelsey Rocque, 22, of Edmonton, will also be chasing some qualifying cash.

There are a record-low eight men’s rinks chasing $12,000 in prize money, led by Vernon’s Jim Cotter, always a qualifer come Saturday.

Sean Geall of Maple Ridge won the 2009 Canadian Direct Insurance BC Men’s title and has been in the money here in the past.

The men’s draws start Friday at 4:30 p.m. with the final Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

“Fans can get a weekend pass for $25 at the club,” said Merklinger. “We’ve got the Shawn Lighfoot Band for the dance Saturday night.”