MONCTON – Since I have now successfully dodged the subject of the actual curlingcompetition for the entire week thus far, it might be time to bring it up.
For the first five days of the competition it was Canada versus The Rest of The World.
Team Martin had no problem reading the ice (which was at times a bit tricky) and they were making every shot. With the exception of their Germany game on Monday, Canada seemed to have every game won in the first five ends.
Still, their first loss was coming all week and some might suggest that Canada’s loss in that last draw against Scotland was the worst possible timing.
When you’re finally challenged and beaten after a week of “easy” games, suddenly adjusting your mental approach to the game takes some effort.
And lots more effort if you then find yourself with two losses in a row.
For the rest of the teams who still had a chance to make it in the top four, it was time to buy some beers for the David Murdoch’s Scottish boys.
Team Kevin Martin definitely knows how to win, but once Scotland had them by the throat on Thursday, we could actually see an inkling of uncertainty in the hometown team’s performance.
Then, in Friday’s playoff (CCA photo by Michael Burns) we saw more than just an inkling. And I can’t blame them – in front of this crowd, losing can seem like a scary prospect. The “Go Canada Go!” cheers we heard here on Friday sounded like they were almost demanding their boys to step up their game.
At the beginning of the week, if you had asked me who would win this thing, I would not have hesitated to say Canada, even though Scotland and Norway were also standout squads. Despite a couple of losses, Scotland and Norway were both performing consistently and seemed like sure candidates for the top four, and the ones to challenge Canada.
However, after having the courage to mix it up, Russ Howard’s Team Switzerland found the confidence and started improving their play, game by game, and became part of the equation.
After a much more convincing performance, Canada will be part of the final after all.
For me, this week has clearly shown the importance of a team’s mental strength and willpower. The body language and commitment of Team Martin tonight was miles away from what we saw yesterday against Scotland. They have been able to pull it together.
Still, if you ask me now, I think Scotland is no longer merely a contender. Because they were able to shake the ground under Canada, it will be an even, and hopefully entertaining, championship final tomorrow, and the pressure is definitely on Canada.