OTTAWA — Craig Savill stepped on the ice at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday and began his usual pre-game stretching routine.
It was force of habit for the 39-year-old Ottawa resident, who's serving as an alternate for Team Reid Carruthers at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
Savill, a two-time world men's champion, was originally hoping to make it to the Olympic Trials as a player. With few qualification options available, he jumped at a chance last March to become the fifth for Carruthers.
"He's a veteran guy, very quirky too, he's full of piss and vinegar," Carruthers said. "He's a really funny guy and he brings not only the jokes when we need it, but he's also a guy that keeps us on task."
Savill will take care of things behind the scenes for the team at the Dec. 2-10 competition. He'll also serve as an adviser, study rocks, examine ice conditions, and handle equipment as necessary.
He could also see game action as a substitute if needed.
"I'm just sort of getting their heads wrapped around the Trials," Savill said after a team practice session. "Not making it such a big deal thinking about the end game. It's a long week.
"Let's just prepare for the next game."
Savill won world junior titles with John Morris in 1998 and 1999. He was a longtime lead for Glenn Howard and won Brier and world titles in 2007 and 2012.
After departing the Howard rink a couple years ago, he went on to play with skips Shawn Adams and Charley Thomas. Savill also took some time off last year after he was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.
Now cancer-free, he plans to return as a full-time player in the quadrennial ahead of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. But for now, he's focused on working with Carruthers, Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski and Colin Hodgson in their quest to represent Canada at the Pyeongchang Games in February.
Savill's experience could come in handy for a team that is still quite young. The tricky part is picking his spots when it comes to advice.
"I think I know when to talk and when to hold back," Savill said. "I'm pretty good at reading body language so I'll know when I need to jump in and when I should keep my mouth shut."
Carruthers booked his Trials ticket with a Canada Cup victory last December. He's one of nine teams vying for the lone Canadian men's team entry at the Games.
The Winnipeg skip is fourth on the World Curling Tour's order of merit. Sweden's Niklas Edin tops the list, followed by reigning world champion Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L., and reigning Olympic champion Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who are both in the Trials field.
"We know we definitely can win but the pressure is not on us because we're not the favourite," Carruthers said.
The nine-team women's field is headlined by Ottawa's Rachel Homan and reigning Olympic champ Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg.
Carruthers will play his first game Saturday evening against Winnipeg's Mike McEwen.
"I'm with a great group of guys," Savill said. "Being able to help them out off the ice with some team dynamics and how to prepare for the Trials is pretty exciting too."
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press