St. Albert resident Ken Tralnberg is looking forward to coaching the Mirjam Ott rink to a podium finish at the 2010 Olympics.
“That's our dreams. We want make the playoffs and then see how we perform after that,” Tralnberg told the Gazette while overseeing the Swiss team's pre-Olympic performance camp in Gimli, Man. “If we don't make the playoffs we'll be extremely disappointed and I'm thinking their country will be disappointed in our performance as well so that could create pressure for them.”
As for Tralnberg feeling the heat as the team's mentor, he is cool as a cucumber.
“I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be awesome,” said the children's advocate with the provincial government. “I feel responsibility but I don't really feel any pressure. I've got to be the calming force and I've got to take that in account so I can't be overly euphoric.”
The first game for the Swiss is Feb. 16 against the Cheryl Bernard rink of Canada.
“It's great to play them for a number of reasons. We want to get that behind us. They will be obviously the overwhelming favourites for the event. She is going to be feeling far more pressure than us I'm guessing, curling for her country in her country and I think the timing for us to meet them is perfect,” Tralnberg said.
Ott, 38, is the only female curler in the world with two Olympic medals. She was the silver medallist in 2002 playing for skip Luzia Ebnother and 2006 as the Swiss skip.
Ott's line-up includes third Carmen Schaefer, second Carmen Kung, lead Janine Greiner and alternate Irene Schori. In 2008 her rink won bronze at worlds in Vernon and last year was the silver medallist at the European championships. In 2008 she skipped the Swiss to the European title.
“They're doing really well. I'm very impressed with them,” Tralnberg said. “We've got a couple of people on our team other than me that are assisting. We have a team sports psychologist that has been working with them for over a year now. He's really trying to focus them on what their task is and keeping them grounded so it's all good.”
Tralnberg coached the Swiss at the last two European champions after helping out at worlds two years ago.
He met Ott while doing a World Curling Federation sponsored clinic in Japan several years ago. She kept bugging him to coach her team until the discussions became serious after worlds.
“I recognize it's an incredible honour to be asked to play a role with these girls and I'm very appreciative of that,” Tralnberg said. “It's instilled a great deal of trust and faith in me. I feel like I have a huge responsibility to uphold that and that's what is really driving me on a day to day basis.”
Tralnberg, 53, is going to his second Olympics but it's his first as a coach. He was the fifth man for Kevin Martin in 2002 as Canada lost the gold medal game to Pal Trulsen of Norway. Martin's last rock draw for the win was heavy as Norway escaped with the gold.
Tralnberg qualified for a medal by throwing two rocks in the sixth end in Canada's 9-4 win over Finland. The rest of the time he scouted rocks and charted opposing rinks with Martin's coach Jules Owchar.
“Obviously my role is different this time and I'm also eight years wiser,” said Tralnberg, Canada's oldest Olympian in 2002 at age 45. “It's still going to be exciting. I'm so looking forward to it because who knows if I will ever do it again.”
On the eve of the Olympics, Tralnberg's best advice for the Swiss is not to let the magnitude of the moment get to them.
“I'm old enough now that I'm constantly telling them that this is simply a game. It's not real life. Haiti is real life.”