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March of time at curling worlds

By Luke Coley

EDMONTON – I always look forward to working at the world championships, but this year is extra special because the event is taking place in Edmonton, where I live.

 
It’s hard to walk into Northlands Coliseum without remembering the atmosphere during the 2005 Brier and 2007 men’s worlds. It still gives me chills as I remember the ovation for Team Randy Ferbey, winning their fourth Brier title at home, as the crowd was on their feet for that final shot by David Nedohin. The entire crowd singing the Canadian anthem while waving the Alberta flag.

Then to see Glenn Howard and Team Canada come out to a packed house wearing cowboy hats to a sea of Maple Leafs on clothes, hats
and flags.

How things have changed for curling and for me, since that world championship in ’07. Back then I was living the single life, working for CurlTV (remember that?) and covering my second world championship. Now I am doing commentary for the World Curling Federation and I have a lovely wife and two amazing children.

It’s been so much fun to bring them in and show them the experience of a world championship that I have now covered more than a dozen times.

Players that were participating at those ’05 and ’07 events are now on the coaching bench, like Peja Lindholm as national team coach for Sweden and Brier champ Marcel Rocque leading the Chinese team – in the same building in which he raised the Tankard for the fourth time. At this championship they are honouring all past champions to win major curling events in Edmonton, which includes Rocque’s part in the Ferbey Four win in 2005.

The World Curling Federation now also has a live YouTube channel – World Curling TV – that allows fans around the world to watch the live coverage throughout the event. There are two full broadcast trucks producing live coverage that is reaching 90 countries on TV and many more via the YouTube channel.

The building that is hosting this event will probably be the last curling event ever here as a new state-of-the-art arena, Rogers Place, has been built in Edmonton. While the Coliseum has seen its share of great curling moments, I am sure there will be new ones created as the championship continues through the week.

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2015 Worlds: Did Ping-Pong rocks squish Canada?

A three-timage sequence showing the attempted "Squish"
A three-image sequence on the attempted “Squish”

[Click on image sequence to increase viewing size]

Exciting stuff at the world men’s championship in Halifax.

USA, skipped by John Shuster, scored their first winning record (6-5) since Pete Fenson went 8-3 back at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, in 2010, but lost in a playoff tiebreaker to colourful Finland. Then, Norway beat Canada for the second time this week, pushing The Pants into Sunday’s final for the second year in a row and dropping Canada down to tonight’s semifinal, where they will lock horns with the winner of Finland versus Sweden.

Earlier this week, guest blogstar Dean Gemmell was in Halifax… and he mentioned something called The Squish.

Here’s another reference to The Squish, and it comes from last night’s NOR vs CAN page playoff tilt. In the 10th end, CAN skip Pat Simmons tried a tricky hit for two that involved “squishing” the first of two red stones in the combo at left (see image sequence) into the back of the rings, for two points and the win. A single point would score only the tie.

As we all know, the shooter stuck for the tying point but that elusive second red point squished through the back of the house and out of play. It wasn’t even close, actually, and Norway went on to score their winning point in the extra end.

Would that elusive “squished” stone have stuck around in the back if Simmons had struck the first stone off centre, and rolled his shooter across (but not out) of the rings?

Here’s another question: Are the rocks these athletes are throwing and sweeping any different than stones from the past – even the near past – and would those old-school curling stones have reacted differently, as per the wishes of Team Canada?

Ask around, and you might find some past legends of the game who might say something between “maybe” and “definitely.”

We recall a lengthy, three-part interview series we published with the legendary Ed Werenich back in 2009 (Feb/Mar/April issues, Vol. 52, Issues 4/5/6). Eddie was lamenting recent differences in curling stone quality, pointing to what he believed are unnatural stone tendencies these days, which includes takeout results… and said The Wrench:

I would like to see them get rid of the magic mushroom rocks that go down the sheet and break four feet from the hogline in. It takes a person that can read ice and then call ice… it takes that stuff right out of the game. It’s just too easy, with the sweeping instruments of today, to flop one around.

We gotta get rid of the inserts and the sandpaper to get back to the way where the rocks curled on a consistent basis all the way down. Because of the rocks it’s too easy to make double, triple peels. The rocks are like ping-pong balls. I see five or six rocks in motion from throwing just one shot. We always used to talk about the quality of the granite.

So there you go. Did these “magic mushroom” or “ping-pong ball” curling stones befuddle Team Canada’s attempt to win the 1 vs 2 playoff game?

[Image sequence from WCTV coverage – click here to watch the video highlight at the 2:05 mark]

 

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Riga 2013: A beautifully normal curling life

From “Photos of the Year” bonus pages in the all-digital version of April’s The Curling News, available tomorrow at: www.thecurlingnews.com
by Stephanie LeDrew
Did all that really happen, or did I just dream it?
It’s hard to believe that in the last two weeks I’ve flown over 14,000 kilometers, slept in six different beds (including multiple airplane seats and one airport bench) in three different countries, laughed and cried in all three nations, and made it all the way back home – with a world bronze medal to show for it.
Going into these events, you never consider what your “next best thing” will be. You focus only on your goal, and no one’s goal is to win a bronze medal. So what do you do when you’re so unprepared for that feeling, and it happens?
It’s strange to feel as though you’ve come up short of your goal and yet finished the week off on a high note, mustering up as much pride as you can for your achievement. Suffering the greatest loss of your athletic career is an indescribably awful feeling. You’ve prepared your whole life for this. You’ve trained and sacrificed endless hours in anticipation of this very moment. You left everything you had on the ice, and it wasn’t enough – but you’d better get over it quickly, because you’ve got a bronze medal game to play in less than 12 hours.
This will now be your chance at redemption. Your last hurrah, your final hope of mustering something to be proud of and ending the week on a high note.
You cannot imagine the mental toughness it takes to pull yourself together in this situation – but pull together we did.
Canada – with coach Earle Morris
We walked into the arena that bronze morning with pure determination, in spite of our own feelings of loss and shortcoming. There was absolutely no way we were going home without a medal. I almost felt sorry for Team USA; they had no idea about the ANGRY FREIGHT TRAIN they were about to face.
We gave up an early deuce in the second end, but that’s where the mercy ended. We took a three-ender right back and set the cruise control until the finish, with our fearless skipper Rachel Homan shooting a ridiculous 94 per cent game.
That’s how you bounce back.
Later that day, when the roller coaster of emotions was slowing down, we stepped onto the podium and received our medals and bouquets. And something magical happened, again, to cap off a magical week.
Having nowhere to store the flowers, and knowing we’d be flying home in a few hours, coach Elaine Dagg-Jackson decided to pass her bouquet on to a young Latvian curler who had been faithfully cheering all week long – for every single team, and every good shot. She was a 13-year-old event volunteer, and a member of the Latvia’s junior women’s team (there are only two junior women’s teams in the entire country). Earlier that week, she had quietly asked for our team’s autographs, which we gladly provided on our way into the locker rooms before a game. Another volunteer witnessed this and later informed us that this young curler was shaking and almost in tears afterwards; she was so grateful that we’d stopped to give her some signatures.
There’s your context. After the medal ceremony, when Elaine gave her our bouquets, she cried and gave thanks as though the flowers were worth a million lats (the local currency). It’s so easy to forget this stuff, especially when you’re trying to focus on a world championship… but THIS is really what it’s all about! That young curler will remember those moments for the rest of her life. She’s been inspired by athletes at the top of their game, not just by talent and dedication – but by kindness, too.
Steph Fans: “Pure pride and excitement”
It is so easy to lose perspective in the heat of competition. It’s hard to remember that it’s a just a game, because it’s not just a game. There is a difference between game and sport – in sport, we live as much for the agony of defeat as we do for the thrill of victory and yet, as amateur athletes, it always ends the same for curlers: back to regular lives, regular jobs, regular responsibilities. It is but one element of a full, rich, beautifully normal life.
I wear the number 34 on my curling jacket; it represents the month and day of my father’s passing, to remind me to keep perspective when facing difficult times on the ice. When you feel the pain of such a great loss, you have to look at all the good you’ve done, and all the things you have to cherish and be proud of. Sometimes all it takes is seeing the pure pride and excitement in the eyes of a little girl holding a “Congratulations Steph” sign at the airport, or the sound of your grandfather’s voice as he chokes back tears on the telephone, telling you how proud you’ve made him.
These are the things that help you pick yourself back up and get back in the game – because, despite victory or defeat, there is so much more in this life to go home to.
[Canada podium photo by Alina Pavliuchik/World Curling Federation – click on images to increase viewing size]
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Riga 2013: The. Bacon. Is. Raw.

[This blogpost was written by Team Canada alternate Stephanie LeDrew prior to Saturday’s 7-6 playoff victory over the United States. The semifinal, against Scotland, was next up at 1:00pm ET]

Steph’s view of the field of play

by Stephanie LeDrew

RIGA, Latvia – Remember a few days ago when we already had three losses? Well, we’ve finished the round robin at 8-3. This team is relentless! A four-game winning streak at the end of the round robin bodes well for our momentum entering the playoffs. We finished alone in third place, and while three other teams with five losses battled it out for fourth, we enjoyed a day off. We practiced last night but otherwise, we checked out the sights and sounds of Riga, Latvia.

Here are some things we noticed.
1) Tim Horton’s magnificent curler-friendly brew excluded, Europe has the best coffee on earth.
2) Bacon is served raw in Latvia.
3) There are no stop signs. Anywhere. Yet both cars and pedestrians move confidently forward without any regard for those around them and somehow, nobody gets hurt.
4) Fully enclosed showers don’t exist. You’re somehow expected to get cleaned up under a high pressure hose without spraying water all over the bathroom (a skill we’ve managed to perfect only after a considerable amount of practice. Many apologies to the Hotel Maritim housekeeping staff.)
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise is the fact that Latvia seems to be embracing curling with open arms. The Latvian team won but a single game – an extra-end victory over Switzerland – and they hugged and cried like they had just won the world championship. It was a heartwarming moment. Besides that, they had a huge fan contingent (in relative terms – there were only 75 people in the place at any given time, but at least a third of those fans were for Latvia) who would routinely get up and  walk from one end of the arena to the other, to get better seats for viewing each end. They loudly chanted “Lat-Vi-Ja, Lat-Vi-Ja!” any time a good shot was made, and they cheered for other teams’ good shots too.
There’s also an adjacent area that has offered curling to the public every day – and it’s been a busy place.
For a country that only has about 250 curlers, they’re quickly moving in the right direction. This is what we often forget as curlers who have been immersed in the game since we were kids. It’s still growing, and this is exciting news for our sport.
We are heading into the playoffs with high hopes and unbreakable spirits. Our team’s determination and cooperative dynamic is inspiring – as Coach Earle says, “None of us are as good as all of us,” and we’re working hard together to bring the gold back to Canada. I hope to write again, possibly Saturday night, with tales of incredible shotmaking, loud cheering, a full arena, and one more game to play. Tune in, Canada: we’re gonna make it a good one!
[Photo by Stephanie LeDrew – click on image to increase viewing size]
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Riga 2013: Stuck in the middle with you

Insert funny caption here (“Comment” below, folks!)
by Stephanie LeDrew
RIGA, Latvia – It’s Wednesday afternoon at the World Women’s Curling Championship. We’ve got eight games on the board and three to go.
At 5-3, we are stuck in the upper-middle of the pack with a couple of other teams. This seems to be a theme for the week, ie. getting stuck – as so far we’ve spent a day and a half stuck in an airport, had a team member stuck in both a locker room and a stairwell (yours truly, in both cases) and several of our supporters stuck in an elevator (more than once.)
My butt has also been stuck to the bench – frozen to it, actually – with eyes, as always, glued to the ice surface.
It’s time to break free, and it’s gonna take some work. As I was climbing my way up each flight of stairs, trying every locked door over and over again, I got to thinking about this team’s ability to persevere. I’ve yet to see them in this sort of situation first hand – In fact, since I’ve been with the team, I’ve only seen them lose four games, including three here at the worlds.
In dealing with media questions lately, it seems everyone is waiting with baited breath to see if Team Canada will crumble at the first (or second, or third) hints of a challenge.
It’s an interesting experience to be regarded in that manner, as if we’re a bunch of aggressive dogs who’ve been backed into a corner. Although that might not be as inaccurate an analogy as I thought… Canadian curling teams have always been The Big Dogs and on the world stage, the Maple Leaf might as well be a target.
The success of a team in this situation is largely determined by how they deal with it. Some athletes crack under the combined pressure  – from their country – to be great and the determination – of other countries – to take them down. Others feed on it and use it to rise to the occasion, and that’s is another “X-Factor” that separates good teams from great teams.
So what to do now? The great Earle Morris once said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” To be in a position where that’s the only coaching advice you need to give is, well, most likely every coach’s dream. At 3-2, it might have seemed that we needed to make some changes, but the momentum was going the right direction. Same thing today.
We are learning… mapping the ice, learning the speed, matching the rocks and getting to know our competition. One might entertain the thought that Canadian teams have bigger changes to get used to at a world championship than most other teams. Why? Because we are blessed – or rather, spoiled – with incredibly consistent ice, loads of experience playing against most of our competitors, and an electric atmosphere that feeds energy into the team. Suddenly, at the biggest bonspiel of our lives, we have very different ice conditions, 50 people in the stands, and little to no experience playing against 90 per cent of our opponents. These are not disadvantages, but they are challenges.
Luckily, we have the most competent support staff we could ever ask for. Coach Earle, Team Leader Elaine Dagg-Jackson, National Coach Helen Radford and Sports Psychologist Natalie are a wealth of information. We have all the tools we need to rise above and beyond and achieve what we all know we’re capable of. We’re encountering obstacles, but we are coming together.
It’s only a matter of time before we find the one unlocked door in the stairwell and break free of the pack. We just need to keep climbing.
[Click on image to increase viewing size – and suggest a caption in “Leave a Comment” below!]
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Riga 2013: Steph for The Curling News

[Team Canada’s Rachel Homan and Co. are in Riga, Latvia, for today’s start of the world women’s curling championship. The Co. includes Stephanie LeDrew, team alternate, who is also serving as a contributor here at The Curling News Blog. Check our blog page throughout the nine-day competition as Steph tells the tale of a young team on a grand adventure!]

by Stephanie LeDrew

Welcome to Frankfurt. Ugh.
RIGA, Latvia – If you could pick anyone on earth to be stranded with in a crowded airport in a foreign country for 32 hours, who would it be?
Okay, it can’t be Brad Pitt or Beyonce. Or your husband, or wife, or some great thinker from history. I could actually list a huge number of people it couldn’t be, and still I don’t think anyone out there would pick their curling team first. Well guess what? They’re probably not a bad choice. Any championship team will tell you that one of the big secrets to success is great team dynamics – we hear that term thrown around all the time, but what does it mean? It’s not just four people getting along and sharing similar opinions. It’s the ability to come together in adversity to create results – on and off the ice.
As it turns out, Team Homan can do that. Very, very well. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like these six people handling a horrific situation so well and with such incredible attitudes.
Picture this: You’re flying overnight to a timezone six hours ahead, you don’t sleep on the plane due to the efforts of a serial seat-kicker behind you, then you find out your last flight will be delayed one hour… then another… then another… until it’s finally cancelled. Then they close the airport.And this is just the beginning.
Next, you’re assigned to a stand-by flight departing five hours later. Then they cancel THAT flight. Then you’re put on another stand-by flight 12 hours later (the next morning) and when you call around to find a hotel room for the night, you find there’s none available in the city due to the number of stranded travelers. So you sleep across four gate seats in the airport all night, hoping no one steals your passport while you sleep, so really you don’t sleep at all.
The next morning, you find out you’re 55th on the stand-by list and there’s no chance you’re getting a seat – so you stand in a miles-long lineup, prepared to buy ANY seat on ANY flight that will get you to your final destination, at ANY COST.
At what point during this ordeal would you have pulled out all your hair, developed a stomach ulcer and began to harbor an intense hatred for anyone around you who looks rested or comfortable or holds a confirmed seat on a flight? To be honest, it started for me at the second seat-kick… but as we progressed through this seemingly endless adventure together, I was in awe of the ability of my fellow teammates to handle adversity with humour, logic, and optimism. Don’t get me wrong, we had our moments, but we came out of it a stronger team than ever before. Everyone seemed to settle into certain roles that they filled well (much like we do on the ice). Some would stand in ticketing lineups to work on the next flight possibility. Others would go on food runs. Others would crack jokes and keep the mood light – but the complaints were at a minimum. We kept each other sane. We supported one another with the mantra that This Too Shall Pass… and the next thing we knew, we were in Riga.
Now that we’re at our final destination, we’ve gotten some practice under our belts, adapted to the time change, done some sightseeing and had some laughs, we’ve all but forgotten the Frankfurt Airport Disaster of 2013 – now, we are simply Team Canada. We’re at the start of the most exciting week of our lives. We carry the Maple Leaf on our backs, and I carry forward a newfound and unbreakable confidence in the ability of this team to rally together.
Bring on the fight – we’ve got this.
[Photo by Team Homan]
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World Men 2012: Blogservations

by Rodger Schmidt

The Curling News photos by Urs Räber (click on image to view larger)

The Pants battled Scotland early in Basel

LUCERNE, Switzerland – Here are some blogservations for you, dear reader, regarding the 2012 World Men’s Curling Championship ongoing in nearby Basel.

BLOGservation 1

Unwanted circumstances have conspired, so far, to force me to watch most of the action via some sort of electronic device. This has caused me to spend an enormous number of hours on the CurlIT website watching little red and yellow circles popping on and off my iPad screen. CurlIT chief Christian Saager and his crew provide an outstanding service with this program and I have become totally hooked on their shot-by-shot graphics as I bounce from game to game.

Click, click, click and presto: I can review every shot on every sheet. I know more about the games now than I ever did sitting in the stands or on the coach/media benches. Of course, knowing too much is not always an asset – for example, I now know there are a vast number of shots for which the official scorers and I do not see the same values. One of us is wrong – a lot. This never mattered much to me in the past – I used to think that over a long period of time the percentages would eventually work themselves out – but now, I am not so sure.

I’m still a big believer in this service, however, and if there was a more accurate way to portray the angles of the stones in the house and in the Free Guard Zone (perhaps GPS or overhead camera imaging?) than this might be better curling viewing than by live streaming – from a pure strategic perspective, of course. This way, the players don’t get in the way of the action and they never annoy you with their screaming and yelling.

BLOGservation 2

Success at the world curling championships seems pretty straightforward: Try to rack up as many W’s as soon as possible and strive for the top of the leaderboard. Not so in Basel! During the first few days of this event it seemed that teams were diving for the bottom, as if there was buried treasure down there. WMCC2012 resembled a contest to see who could be the first to get to five losses, and Switzerland, Czech Republic, USA and Germany turned out to be the best deep-sea divers. Norway, of course, struggled early in this competition and could have found their way down too, had Denmark not missed a routine draw for victory in an extra-end (the Danes then did it again, too, for an early 2-2 won/loss record). Denmark has, in my opinion, played well enough to be 6-2 rather than 4-4.

French fans cheer for their squad at the St. Jakobshalle

BLOGservation 3

It looks to me that the city of Basel is proving that world championship curling can be successfully presented in Switzerland. The St. Jakobshalle has been turned in to a most attractive venue, with steep bleacher seating offering great spectator views of the large playing area featuring the four sheets in play. The venue, located just south of Basel, is also reasonably accessible – via the Autobahn – for Swiss curling fans scattered around the rest of the country. Basel can attract the required volunteers, and such volunteers boast sufficient curling knowledge and experience. There are few locations in Europe,sorrowfully, that could successfully and acceptably do what Basel is doing.

The crowds have been reasonable, with a couple of thousand on hand last night; not bad for a Tuesday and not bad given the host team’s plunge to the bottom of the leaderboard. This is unfortunate for the championship, because Swiss fans tend to show up in great numbers – with  cowbells, of course – when they have a horse in the race… and not so much when they do not.

On that note, check out the second photo on the cover of the latest (April 2012) issue of The Curling News, and you will see a St. Jakobshalle packed with curling fans back in 2006. NOTE: To my great surprise and pleasure, The Editor has also published this issue online as a digital edition, for the very first time (and with extra digital pages)… so even non-subscribers (boo!) can “check it out” by clicking here. Well done to The Curling News because this edition, with all the hyperlink bells and whistles, looks and reads fantastic.

Wayne Middaugh: The Fifth Element

BLOGservation 4

I was recently involved in the USA Curling production of a new curling manual, entitled The Five Elements of Curling Technique. For more information click here and you can also watch this short explanatory video here.

There is another video in which I appear, located here, but this one is 17 minutes long and I wouldn’t wish such pain on anyone! [Oh, it’s not that bad – Ed.]

Anyway, from time to time we have difficulty explaining what we mean by the “Fifth Element”… and here is your answer, folks: Canada third Wayne Middaugh.

He has, in this championship to date, perfectly demonstrated how a top player brings curling intellect into shotmaking. Call it experience, call it insight, call it smart, call it knowing the game, or call it – as we did – the Fifth Element, but it has been amazing to watch his mastery at work. He has known and incorporated every variable, every detail and every relevant factor in to each shot he has played this week in Basel. The consequence of this has ensured that Canada has, to date, been impossible to beat.

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Sweden skip injured on eve of 2012 Worlds

Niklas Edin in January 2012

Sveriges herrlag i curling tvingas göra en radikal lagändring!

The big news in Basel, site of the imminent 2012 World Men’s Curling Championship, is that Team Sweden has been thrown into turmoil due to a chronic injury affecting skip Niklas Edin.

Word of more problems in Edin’s wonky back come just one day before the opening stones are thrown at the St. Jakobshalle, and during today’s all-important practice sessions. Edin will definitely miss Sweden’s first match against hosts Switzerland, and third Sebastian Kraupp will replace him at skip position. Alternate Oskar Eriksson will enter the lineup at second stone.

“Niklas’ back is getting better and better but he can’t play the first match,” said Swedish national coach Peja Lindholm, a retired three-time world champion skip.

Edin has suffered from back problems since the age of 10. His difficulties reached a peak during the 2010 season, but he was able to finish fourth at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games – thanks to a steady diet of painkiller medication.

Kraupp (far left) and Eriksson

Edin underwent surgery for multiple herniated discs in June of that year, but has suffered various relapses off and on ever since.

Edin is frustrated. “I have never missed a game in my life,” he told Sweden’s Nya Wermlands Tidningen.

The 26-year-old Kraupp is no stranger to skipping duties: he captained a Karlstad squad for several years before Edin was recruited to the team in 2008.

Eriksson, meanwhile, is no slouch either – he skips Sweden’s second-ranked men’s team, he captured gold at the world juniors and he also jumped into two games for Team Edin at December’s European Championships, when Kraupp fell ill.

Sweden is scheduled for games against China and the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Edin and Kraupp photos by Anil Mungal/Capital One

Eriksson photo by Andrew Klaver/World Curling Federation

 

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Regina Worlds: What A Finish

Th-th-that’s all, folks!

by Jill Officer

REGINA – Everyone prepares differently for curling games, especially big ones like the world championship final. But Team Canada and Team Scotland had no problem signing autographs for fans along the boards prior to the pre-game practice. Great to see this.

Also before the practice session, the wife of Scottish skip Tom Brewster wife showed up with balloons and a birthday present for Tom: a Saskatchewan Roughriders football jersey! And wouldn’t you know it… as it turns out, it’s also Canadian third Jon Mead’s birthday, too!

Clearly it was going to be a great birthday for one of these guys tonight… and a disappointing one for the other. Brewster turned 37, while Mead turned 44. Just before the game, a portion of the crowd started singing Happy Birthday, but I couldn’t quite make out whether it was sung to Jon or Tom. Likely Jon, but maybe both!

Remember Green Day earlier in the week? Well, the green Team Canada jackets that were donned by Jeff Stoughton’s team on Tuesday were signed by the boys and auctioned off in the patch after the bronze medal game.  The total money raised was $16,050 and it all went to the Sandra Schmirler Foundation – awesome! Below is how much each jacket went for…

Jeff Stoughton – $7,000
Jon Mead – $3,000
Reid Carruthers – $2,100
Steve Gould – $2,000
Garth Smith – $950
Norm Gould – $1,000

Aside from the few green jackets in the crowd, it was mostly red and white today. The most, actually, that we’ve seen all week for a single draw.  And these red and white fans were very excited and enthusiastic. They were also a very appreciative crowd, cheering for other teams that walked around the arena… including Team Sweden, who defeated Norway for the bronze medal earlier today.

I’m not going to lie… I didn’t have the greatest feeling during the first few ends of the gold medal game, as Scotland came out firing and the Canadians weren’t quite as sharp. As they did in the semifinal, the Scots jumped right into an aggressive tactical game and, well, Canada didn’t look as loose as they have all week for the first half.

Skipper Stoughton was still looking to score a deuce in the very first end, even as the Scots lay four stones in the rings. Jon and Jeff finally got something going, and lay two on Brewster’s final shot, but he made a spectacular double amid the mess of granite and, suddenly, Stoughton’s second shot was a draw against five. Gulp!

‘Nuff said?

The Scots then took a deuce, and then stole to lead 3-1. They were making absolutely everything, and the 21- and 22-year-olds in front of Brewster looked like veterans.

But finally, in the fifth end, Canada strung some good shots together and scored a triple. It was noticeable to me that they then settled down.  They started smiling more, and joking around. Stoughton even pulled his trademark spin-o-rama on a blank in the seventh end after the crowd loudly cheered for him on to do so.

In the end, it was some critical misses that seemed to unglue the Scots. A stunned Stoughton didn’t even have to throw his last one… Canada were champions again! and Jon Mead had won his first world title in three attempts… after losing to Scotland in both 1996 and also in 1987 (the world juniors!).

Congrats to the Canadians, one and all. Two global titles for Jeff and Steve, and what an amazing “rookie” Brier and worlds year for Reid!

As for Mr. Mead, what can I say? After quitting the sport after stunning Olympic Trials disappointment in 2006, he returned to play for a few years with Ontario’s Wayne Middaugh, then he rejoined Stoughton for this one-year experiment, and now the sky is the limit. He was the most passionate and pumped-up of the Canucks all week, and no wonder – he was moved to tears after the game, as he had competed this week in memory of his mother, who died two years ago… and he had just thrown a monkey off his back by winning his first global title in three attempts, after losing the 1996 world final and also the 1987 world junior final – both to Scotland!

Congrats also to the brave Scots, and the Swedes and Norwegians, who put on such a great show all week. Congrats to Pantsmeister Thomas Ulsrud, who won the coveted Colin Campbell Award for sportsmanship, as voted on by his fellow players… the second straight Norwegian to win it, after his third Torger Nergard won it last year in Cortina (as skip).

Heck, congrats to all the competitors!

Thanks for reading folks, and now I must run to do a final standup for Global TV Regina! Make sure you tune in to this here blog, and the Twitter account and of course CBC-TV next weekend (and here for online pay-per-view outside of Canada) for the season-ending Players’ Championship from Grande Prairie, Alberta! It all starts Tuesday night… and I’ll be out on the ice this time, without a computer or camera in sight!

Photos by Anil Mungal and Jill Officer copyright The Curling News® – click on images to increase size

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Playoff curling in Cortina

Japan and Italy: young hopes for the future

by Rodger Schmidt

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – From today onward, most spectators will not recall that 12 teams started in this competition, for all eyes and commentary will be on the top four.

With no tiebreakers, there was only one game today, the Norway-Canada Page playoff battle,  to determine who advances straight to  Sunday’s championship final.

Scotland and the United States will wait until Saturday morning to see who will drop directly to the bronze medal game, and who will move on to the semi-final later the same day.

The big question of yesterday’s final round-robin draw was twofold: if the U.S. could hold on to fourth spot, and this they did by defeating Sweden in six ends, and to see if Norway or Scotland would challenge Canada in today’s 1 vs 2 match.

Norway cleared that up by beating Canada to finish number one, and securing last stone advantage in their next two games, and Scotland made it less dramatic by losing their last game to Switzerland, thus handing last stone advantage in the 3 vs 4 playoff to the Americans. Given the way Scotland manages a game, this could be an important factor.

With 12 teams in this competition a lot of games were been played to get to this point. In this system of play, everyone meets everyone else one time to distribute an equal number of victories and defeats. The trick for all is to not collect four or more defeats within the 11 games.

Fans, fans, in the stands...

The team “on the bubble” was Denmark. The Danes had a solid week, defeating pretty much everyone that they should have, but in their head-to-head matchups against the eventual top four, they could only defeat the USA – holding on to an early lead thanks to a score of five on the second end. However, they lost to Canada, Norway, Germany and Scotland, and all were top four contenders at the time that these battles were contested.

One more win against these big boys was required to be ensured, at minimum, a shot at a tiebreaker. Close, but no cigar for Ulrik Schmidt and company, but a much better showing here than at the Vancouver Olympics.

No team in the rest of the field was able to post a winning record, and the biggest surprise within this not-so-magnificent-seven was Germany. Andy Kapp called and executed a terrific game against Canada on Tuesday night, handing Canada their first defeat, and then the next morning the German jet fighters ruled the skies again against Denmark.

But sadly, it was all Hindenburg after that. Germany crashed three straight times to finish with six losses.

Italy has not competed well in world men’s competitions since a solid showing at the Torino Olympics in 2006, and with Joel Retornaz back at the helm – but with very young teammates – they managed only three victories. However, the hosts were very competitive in most of their games and obviously more experience is required in order to manage pressure in key moments. This group has some real talent.

Switzerland had an older and more experienced team in this competition, led by Stefan Karnusian, and at times their style of play looked old. From game to game and from end to end, rarely was an outcome clear. They made brilliant shots to score or to subvert an enemy position… and moments later they would miss when you would least expect it.

On the final day they lost 9-7 in the morning to Japan – the sole victory for the Japanese – and then won 9-7 over playoff-bound Scotland. That, folks, sums it all up.

France: time for a rest, boys

The records of Sweden and France – four wins and three wins for Per Carlsen and Thomas Dufour, respectively – were much more predictable. The French are probably ready to take a break after a long, long Olympic preparation run, and this Swedish team – which  upset the impressive Niklas Edin in the Swedish final – was simply too inconsistent to put a string of victories together.

Both Asian teams – China’s Fengchun Wang/Rui Liu combo and Japan’s Makoto Tsuruga – closed out the bottom of the leader board this week. This may be a surprise to many, following strong showings by Japanese and particularly Chinese teams in the past half-decade… but I am not so surprised. It is easier to climb near the top than it is to stay there.

For all teams: the work you do and the skills you learn, both strategically and technically, need to be adjusted and upgraded all the time. How you won games yesterday will not be the same as how you are going to have to win today, and certainly not tomorrow. Asia will be back on top again, but not until they reinvent themselves and redevelop their systems.

Quick trivia question: without Googling, name the historic international curling event at which Japan’s Tsuruga competed, over a decade ago… and how did he do (generally)?

As I write this, we’re less than an hour away from the start of the second NOR-CAN tilt. Stay tuned to the blog for more later.