Regina's Jan Betker is no stranger to Swift Current or the World Women's Curling Championships. She was a member of the Sandra Schmirler rink in 1997 that won the SaskPower Scotts Provincial Women's Curling Championship at the Centennial Civic Centre in Swift Current.With such a decorated curling resume her memories of that experience in Swift Current are a little foggy after 13 years.
Provincial champions 1997
"Not really. They all start to run together after a while. I couldn't even tell you, I know who we played in the final and that is about it," said Betker.
After conquering the province in 1997 Betker and her teammates went on to win the Scott Tournament of Hearts and the World Championships that year in Berne, Switzerland for the third and final time after previously claiming back-to-back world titles in 1993 and 1994.
Betker will be attendance for the opening weekend of this year's tournament after being invited by the Canadian Curling Association as a former champion.
Betker agreed that Saskatchewan has a strong reputation in the curling world.
"Obviously teams from Saskatchewan are always very good and whenever they go to a Canadian championship they are always among the favorites that is for sure. It is just a really tough thing to do to win it. There haven't been that many of us unfortunately from Saskatchewan that have gone on to win a Scotties but for sure we are in the hunt. Every year that a team from Saskatchewan is at the Scotties they are somewhere close to the top."
"We have a lot of great history here and really competitive curling teams so it is really tough to get out of the province and we usually do fairly well at a national event."
Betker, who won all three of her world titles on foreign ice, believes that hosting the tournament at home will be an advantage for Team Canada skipped by Jennifer Jones.
"I think that is probably an advantage and Jennifer's team is experienced enough to know, they have been at a World Championship before so nothing will be new to them. So I think, especially for them, they won't really feel any additional pressure from that. I think it will be an additional advantage for them to play at home."
Betker is familiar with the field at the Ford World Women's Curling Championship, which includes six skips that took part in the Vancouver Olympics.
"Well for sure Team Canada is going to be a favorite there is no question. Obviously China being the defending World Champions and Olympic bronze medalists will be favored to do very well.
She explained that the quality of curling has increased at the international level and has leveled out over the years.
"The playing field is certainly more even then it was back when we went to our first World Championship for instance. I think that teams have elevated their play that much more since the inclusion of the sport into the Olympics. All of these countries have spent more money developing their teams and national programs and such so the competition will be very good I am quite sure."
After a long career she still points back to her gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics as the highlight.
"You have to say yes for sure because the Olympics are something that come along only once every four years. So there are not many teams that get an opportunity to do that. To our good fortune we were able to capitalize on that opportunity so for sure that would be a highlight. Any time you get to represent your country with a maple leaf on your back it is a good thing so we were very fortunate."