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Threepeat Curling in Vegas

Follow #SamInVegas this week, starting Thursday

By Sam Corea

In 2013, I began seeing TV ads showing scenes of curling action cut with the bright lights of Sin City and an announcer asking the question “Curling in Vegas?”  Well, here we are four years later with the third edition of the Continental Cup of Curling in Las Vegas.  And here I go again to take in the Vegas curling experience for the third time, and for your benefit, dear reader.

It seems Las Vegas has become a permanent stop on the international curling event calendar. And it’s Canadian travellers who are supporting curling in Vegas, despite the lower value of the loonie, as they look for any reason to escape the winter cold to enjoy some desert sun and curling.  I am one of those Canadians this year, as the usually mild West Coast winter weather has been anything but balmy with sub-zero temperatures and half a dozen snowfalls in Vancouver since December. So, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-teens, coupled with watching Team North America battle with Team World will help chase away the January blues.

In 2014, the teams were scouting each other in Vegas as that edition of the Continental Cup was held just weeks before the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Last year’s edition, in my view, suggested that the teams were more focused on friendly competition and fun.

This year, with the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games just 13 months away, organizers tell us the event is a chance for curling fans to get an advance look at many of the teams who will be chasing gold in South Korea (and we’ll have lots to say about that in future editions of The Curling News).

Of course, we’ve got some curlers who’ve been to many Continental Cups and the last two editions in Vegas. But there are many first-timers this year, so I’ll be looking to get their impressions of curling in the desert (along with Elvis and Marylin Monroe impersonators escorting them onto the ice) for my social media posts this week and weekend, which you can follow on two platforms: The Curling News Twitter feed and also on The Curling News Facebook page.

During last year’s Cup in Vegas, the former director of marketing for Tourism Nevada told me that Canadians love Nevada and they love curling, so hosting these events in the land of casinos, big buffets and showgirls is a natural fit. And the slogan adopted by those involved – Las Vegas Rocks – just seems to roll off the tip of the tongue.

Attendance for the 2016 Continental Cup topped 62,000 – the most people to ever watch a curling event in the United States.  Officials are gambling that the success of the 2014, 2016 and 2017 Cup events will result in even more bums in the seats in the spring of 2018, when the Orleans Arena hosts the Men’s World Curling Championship – soon after the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

I don’t think the novelty of being in an arena in Vegas filled with curling fans has worn off yet. In fact, as I tell folks I’m heading to Vegas for a curling competition, some still raise an eyebrow, but admit that it seems like something fun to do in January.

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2015 Worlds: Sort of quiet

Pants 1, Canada 0
Pants (and socks and caps) 1, Canada 0… so far

By Dean Gemmell

HALIFAX – Not exactly the best night for the home crowd with Canada ceding an early four-ender to a Norwegian team that was dressed like John Daly crossed with Pippi Longstocking by way of St. Andrews. Something like that anyway.

U.S. skip John Shuster had a relatively straightforward quiet hit for two in the fourth and played a double for three. Made it. Ergo, great call. After this morning’s loss, there might have been a bit of anger in that shot. Or a belief that an opportunity needed to be taken. Or it was way simpler than that and he just figured it was an easy shot for three.
Niklas Edin’s Swedish side delivered a reality check to the young Swiss team — up front 8-1 at the break and handshakes after the mandatory six ends. The only concern for the Swedes once they got out in front was making sure one of them didn’t suffer a broken foot due to a Christian Lindstroem peel. A serious chucker, that kid.
I was thinking Joel Retornaz looks a lot older than when we saw in him play for Italy at the 2006 Olympics. Then I realized that was nine years ago — it would be weird if he didn’t.
Remember how shocked everyone was when Italy started out 2-0 this week? Here’s what The Editor blogged about Italy’s stunning win over Canada back at those Torino Olympics… and what was said when Retornaz fled Italy for Switzerland a few months later… and what Rodger Schmidt wrote about him more recently from the Cortina worlds of 2010.
I saw women walking with beers that had not only lids, but straws. Maritime practicality.
Spoke to ice technician Jamie Bourassa between yesterday’s draws. He was hopeful that the soft, fudgy ice that developed Monday last night wouldn’t occur; he turned the lights off between draws and has only people with low overall body temperature working on the ice surface. At least that’s what I heard after the part about the lights. Then I was distracted by beers with straws.
It was sort of quiet in here last night. That’s what happens when the home team gets down early.
[Curling Canada photo by Michael Burns – click on image to increase viewing size]
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Sochi 2014: Curling gold for Canada

From streaming thoughts to screaming joy

by Mike McEwen

Skipper stepped up today – GOLDEN!

SOCHI, RUSSIA – It’s medal time baby!

Speaking of finals, after 11 days we’ve FINALLY got the walk from Canada Olympic House to the Ice Cube perfected! It’s sunny and +18C out, the shades on, we’ve got Molsons (plural) to go, and the barbeque is lit (the Olympic flame, LOL)!

• Same pep talk with Dawn as the day before. Does she need to be better than she was in that semi? Easy text conversation went like this: “Imagine I’m saying the exact same things as yesterday” …  sort of like that Netflix football commercial!

• First end: A couple of half shots from us and a few good shots from the Swedes and it’s a steal situation. But… great first throw from Jen and forced Sweden away from just guarding! 1-0 CAN… phew!

• Second end: Well played end from Canada. SWE fourth makes two last shot beauties to get her single. All tied.

• Third end: Trevor delivers ice cream… Kyle Paquette (CCA lead sport psych) and I are finally silent for a bit, haha! Good end, but the result is a blank. Still 1-1.

• Fourth end: Dawn starts the end well with a corner guard and then a freeze. Jill rattles things around and a simple deuce situation opens up. Kaitlyn makes great line call and Team Canada finishes the end off with a draw for two!

• Note on the fourth end: SWE did have a double but missed calling it thin (option B) versus just watching the jam happen – a bit of a mental error.

• Fifth end: Yikes! My hands are seriously trembling writing this! SWE had a fairly easy nose double for four – three minimum. Somehow, though, they threw it just off line enough to only get two! Bullet dodged! 3-3 at the mid-game point.

• Sixth end: I decide I’m shaky from being both nervous and cold. Extra layer goes on. Sweden goes in and we hit. Blank end, and a quick one.

• Seventh end: Kyle talks too much… and this allows me to talk too much… quite unlike Devlin‘s quiet, wired-mouth ways. I’m having trouble keeping up with the thinking and typing, haha! SWE makes a big strategy error this end, and throws it in instead of guarding. I was going to say “in my opinion”, but stats back this one up 100 per cent. This allows Canada to execute another blank.

• Eighth end: Great call Jen, and nicely executed tick shot by Dawn. Two corner guards are set up and minimal risk of steal situation. After a great freeze on Jen’s first, her draw for two comes up just light (and a measure was required to confirm the single). A pretty good end to score in, regardless of how many. 4-3 for CAN.

LOL! Awesome! #burn

• Ninth end: I’m soooo thirsty and chewing nervously on some gum! Not really quenching. CAN in trouble early, but a pick on SWE helps our cause. Still not out of the woods though with lots of clutter for Sweden to freeze too. I HATE being a fan… well, hate is a strong word, but I dislike this knot in my stomach! However, after a miscue on a SWE draw (heavy) CAN is now on the offensive. Great last shot by CAN skipper, swept and called perfectly! SWE forced into tough shot, facing a steal of two and… they rack on their own in the top of the house! 6-3 lead for Canada, coming home!!

• 10th end: Dawn throws two beauties – throw throughs, that is! Jilly and Kaitlyn make both their peels. What shot do you want to win an Olympic gold medal? How about make contact on your first stone!?!? Jen sets herself in the hack (twice) and simply makes it… now let the fist-pumping and jumping begin!!

Gutsy win, girls! Deserved and earned. Tomorrow I’m hoping for the same thing for our men. Double gold for curling is in sight!

Canadian Olympic House… look out, here come the families!

[Action photo copyright The Curling News ® by Anil Mungal. Click on images to increase viewing size]

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Sochi 2014: CAN vs GBR women’s semi

 More event blogstreaming – PLAYOFFS!

Might as well jump – JUMP!

by Mike McEwen in Sochi, Russia

• Pep talk this morning with Dawn… she’s ready! √
• Avoid the instant coffee and down a couple quick presses √
• Jam-packed and sweaty 25-minute bus ride to Olympic park √
• Despite the “hot-box” bus ride, it’s a cooler but still sunny day. Ice-maker should like! √
• Brisk two kilometre walk to COH √
• Couple of quick “nerve calming” barley sandwiches √
• Make it slightly early for the game 🙂 √
• Big break in first end – and a gimme deuce! √
• One more thing on the checklist today – WIN!

• I see the mother-in-law has brought out a high-pitched cowbell today. I think I’ll still be hearing it for weeks…! #earsringing #hearingloss

• Skipper has her weight early. 3-0 after two ends!
• Gave Team GBR one of those “unforced-error” deuces back. 3-2 CAN after three ends…

• Interesting watching GBR use their stopwatches to time everything – even hits for both teams. I’m not a huge fan of stopwatch reliance; I prefer players to “see it and feel it.”

• Make your second shot. Skipper, Jen, does just that in fourth. I liked the in-turn draw… she made the out-turn hit perfectly! 4-2 CAN after four…
• Good force in fifth! Nice first half CAN ladies! Straightforward curling and nothing too complicated (as has the SWE-SUI semifinal through five ends). Four to three for CAN at the half.

• Leaned over to Jill’s hubby, Devlin, and asked how he’s enjoying this. We both agreed “this sucks” and we’re looking forward to some post-game relief!

• Jen makes good draw to the four-foot for a single point. 5-3 CAN through six ends.
• Noticing a few of us fans with “Olympic colds”. Crossing my fingers, but in all likelihood I’ll be bringing one home!
• Error on GBR’s lead stones (hit and rolled out of play). Blank end in the seventh.
• Dawn setting up start of the ends great! Ask for four-foot, ask for 12 foot, and ye shall receive. This is contributing to Team Canada’s ability to reduce any clutter so far.
• I think we are over-icing some of those “inside out” hits – those eight-foot tracks can get pretty straight late in games on arena ice.

• Two good doubles, one by Kaitlyn and one by JJ and out of trouble! Blank in eighth strategically a big benefit. 5-3 CAN after eight ends.
• Dawn sets up ninth perfectly! 🙂 Peel, peel, peel, ladies! Blank is good, force GBR to one even better, or worst case giving up two – not that bad.
• Kaitlyn with another good double! Looks like another blank coming our way… but wait, we get a light freeze attempt from Eve and force them to take a point! One up coming home with the brick! 5-4 CAN after nine ends…

Where’s Mike? Oh, there. Calm as a cucumber…

• Parents are nervous… I can feel it too! Get me to the Patch (COH)!
• Okay Dawn… the order up is for two ticks! Plated and served!!!!
• One of the parents mentioned Dawn is eight for eight on tick shots this tournament! Phhh, I mean I knew that already, LOL! Impressive!
Jilly makes two nice double peels. Skipper should have no worse than open draw to the four-foot for Velcro time! I like that!
• Eeee… I like the easy double-peel on Kaitlyn’s. Have a feeling it’s still going to be a draw to four-foot for the win, but against the loss and with no hit option on GBR stones!
• I need to take a breather… hands getting a little shaky typing!

• Devlin tells me to be quiet… I’m talking and he’s internalizing. We handle stress differently!
• This is one way to check if you’re alive! Can feel the pressure!
WOOOO! Great throw, judging, and sweeping! It’s medal time Team Canada women… time to go golden! 6-4 CAN final score!

• BTW , I think this semifinal in this playoff structure is more stressful than the final coming up tomorrow (will confirm that soon enough)!
• Okay, watching last few shots of SWE/SUI game. Wow, pretty straightforward split for two and the win for Ott and she gasses it! Swedes were lucky to win that one. Let’s hope their luck has run out, or better yet, luck won’t be enough to beat Team Canada!

• Great chat with Trevor Wall. He noted the team aspect of Jen’s final shot. The cleaning of the rock for half of the shot, no panic, and then sweeping to place it the final one-third of the sheet. Impressed by not just Jen, but the whole team’s handle on pressure; great focus by all! Let’s finish this this ladies… you deserve it, now go and earn it!

• Peace out… It’s #molsontime…

[Photos are copyright The Curling News ® by Anil Mungal – click on images to increase viewing size]

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Sochi 2014: Quick thoughts on the run

Stream-of-consciousness style…

by Mike McEwen in Sochi, Russia

Look away vegans, look away!

• Slept in today…. apparently setting alarm for 11:00am as a backup meant I was getting up at 11:00am!

• Last night had some bedtime vodkas with Anil, Trevor, Brent… the late night snacks we picked up were amazing (whole chicken on a skewer with dipping sauce). No cutlery of course… bare hands!

• Bigger crowd today… hockey had an obvious effect last night (Russia vs USA).

• Caught a quick lunch (both liquid and solid) at Canada Olympic House before this game… caught some of the Jacobs girls napping (will send pic soon, ha!)

• Email from gk, then interviewed by Yahoo! Sports re. the Men of Curling Calendar. Well… I’m not supposed to be the centre of ANY attention here, but it seems that cover might be blown… but hey, at least it’s for a good cause – 12 different good causes, to be exact! Have you got yours yet…?

• Great break in seventh end… thought Erika had stuffed that runback, but it popped open and we forced her to draw and stole one. That was a better end from Team Canada.

Wake up your ladies, fellas!

• Note to self… I missed coffee this morning and don’t feel quite right (addiction?). Must hit up the espresso machine in COH… cappuccino anyone? Haha…

• My side view seat sucks today… at least it’s end seating for the playoffs! On a positive note, I’m beside the Denmark/Korea game… wow… the Korean girls are loud… and entertaining (if you like horror movie style screaming/dying)…!

• Really like the seventh and eighth ends our Canadian girls played. That’s more like themselves.

Dawn makes two ticks in the 10th end… haha… I’m not surprised… which is why I won’t play her one-on-one (no sense bruising my ego)…

• Sweden is just scraping and clawing through games… could this be the third time in a row they avoid a loss that looked deserved?

• Crap… Jen is a little light… extra-end… beer time on hold…

The Tick Woman! With some help from friends…

• Correction… FOUR ticks in a row for Dawn! Let’s make the simple ones and let the skipper have the four-foot for the win…

• Stoked for Canada vs. Finland hockey game tonight… with some inside connections, might even enjoy this one with seats with our girls!!!!

• I don’t know how the Swedish skip could hear herself think on that last one! The “TCCCCCC” sign was obviously not working!

• And what the heck is going on in Japan vs. Switzerland extra-end???? Swiss wouldn’t concede even though they’re not shot??? Mind-boggling… Draw made for two, haha… I would of held my hand out until they shook!

• Great confidence-building draw, full-four, for the win… both for the sweepers and thrower… get that stress level up and convert! Nice win ladies… not picture perfect but a W!

[Action photos copyright The Curling News® by Anil Mungal – click on images to increase viewing size]

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Sochi 2014: Playoffs in sight

The amazing culture of curling

by Mike McEwen

Missed the hockey guys. Oh well.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – I’ve had a few comments mentioning it’s great to see that Brent Laing and I can tolerate each other and cheer on Team Canada Women’s Curling at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Haha! Maybe I shouldn’t have used “tolerate” as the descriptive word!

As many of you are aware, our spouses are the bookends (skip and lead) of Team Jennifer Jones. And yes, it’s also very true that on the World Curling Tour and Grand Slam circuit, I usually loathe Brent and his Team Glenn Howard performances against us.

However, off the ice it’s a different story and believe it folks, that’s the case most of the time and with most of the teams on tour. Chalk it up to the amazing culture of curling. Curlers like curlers, and Brent and I are no exception. Maybe that’s why our other halves like us too (please let there be other reasons – LOL!).

So, with mutual respect like that between us it makes our job easier in the stands… Job? Yep, we’re more than just the average fan. We park our butts in some uncomfortable seats for hours on end supporting our girls just like everyone else, but with each game, every end, and every shot we are constantly analyzing (and sometimes agonizing) like only a competitive curling spouse can!

Skype session with infant – cuuuute!

When needed we are only a quick meeting, phone call, or text away. It could be just to reassure, boost confidence, or provide feedback… strategy, ice conditions, slow rock? Or how about a quick Skype session on a gondola with daughter, Isabella, back home? Very cool!

It’s a tough gig, but rewarding, and I give full credit to all the friends and family who have been doing this for much longer than I. Having the best fans… is anyone else thinking: Advantage to Team Canada?

With all the watching I’m doing, now is as good as any to weigh in with only a few round-robin games left in the schedule for the women. Although, I keep getting bugged that the camera catches me on my phone too much… it’s Twitter’s fault! (Plus: distraction is a stress relief)

No surprises in my opinion of Team Canada. With a 6-0 record and three round-robin games left our ladies look good, confident, comfortable, and the playoffs are in sight. Tonight would seal that position with a win against Russia.

It’s going to be loud… really loud in there tonight. The most simple shots from Team Russia, whether made really well or not-so-much, are going to be cheered with incredibly loud chants of “Russ-cee-ya” all night! The atmosphere is actually quite entertaining and I would imagine the big screen is going to pop up with “SHHHHHH” or “TCCCCCC” (in Russian) all night long. These screens often showcase “crowd educating” messages during the matches. However, if the girls stay on course, look for them to silence the Russian fans with their game play on the ice, and on the scoreboard.

This 3D moving billboard thing is… really weird

The other teams at the top of the standings are pretty much who I thought they would be. Great Britain, Sweden, China, and Switzerland are all in the playoff picture, but at the moment I’m not seeing enough complete performances (strategy and/or shotmaking) from this group. The next three days will better indicate who will push their play to a higher level. I’m leaning towards the defending world champs, Eve Muirhead and Team Great Britain, to do just that.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to watch a great deal of the men’s curling competition. I don’t think anyone would have put the Swiss out of playoff contention this early! On the other side of the coin, I am not surprised to see the men’s Chinese team doing so well with Canadian coach Marcel Rocque on board. I had a hunch these boys would handle the ice and atmosphere, and be in the mix the final days.

Well, from counting the empty water bottles beside me I am plenty rehydrated. Perfect, I’m in the right establishment to remedy that… Canada Olympic House! Time to pre-game and get ready to take on the boisterous Russian crowd tonight!

[Hockey Boyz photo by Anil Mungal/The Curling News – other pics by Mike McEwen]

[Click on images to increase viewing size]

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Regina Worlds: Youth Olympians

Youth Olympians headed to Innsbruck

by Jill Officer

REGINA – It was a packed house last night as Team Canada stepped on the ice. You couldn’t even hear the lone bagpiper during the pre-game march because of the loud Canadian fans.

In front of that same crowd, the Canadian Youth Olympic curling team was introduced at the fifth-end break. The Youth Olympics is a new initiative from the International Olympic Committee that is like the Olympics, but for youngsters between the ages of 16 and 18. The first Summer Youth Olympics was held last year in Singapore, so now the first Winter Youth Olympics will take place in Innsbruck, Austria in January of 2012.

“It was unreal,” said Thomas Scoffin, the skip of the team, after the introduction in front of the large Canadian crowd. “I’ve never been part of anything like that before.”

COME OOOONNNN!

The team, made up of two girls and two boys, was selected after a comprehensive process that combined on-ice performance at the recent Canada Winter Games as well as a formal application process – and that included a written essay, academic consideration, involvement in their communities and interest in other athletic and cultural activities.

Wow – I don’t know any curler that has to go through all that to get on a team! These guys, and gals, must be good!

The lucky athletes that were selected are Scoffin, who is from Whitehorse in the Yukon; Emily Gray of O’Leary, Prince Edward Island; Corryn Brown of Kamloops, BC and Derek Oryniak of Winnipeg.  The team leader and coach will be Helen Radford of Halifax. It was nice of the Canadian Curling Association to fly them all in for the on-ice presentation, which saw them march out in their different provincial jackets and then be presented with their new Team Canada colours!

The team will execute some preparations and team building in the fall leading up to the event. “We’re going to meet up a couple of times in the upcoming months,” Brown told me. “We need to figure out how everyone plays, and each of our different releases.”

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, this is only the second Canadian national team that is selected – the other being the wheelchair curling team. All other national teams “win to get in” and there are always a few people calling for coaches and officials to select all-star teams for other competitions… like the regular Olympics.

Jon Mead shows Jeff Stoughton his “Hulk Face”

And here’s something really interesting: there will be two types of events taking place at the Youth Olys. The first is the regular mixed event, and the second will be… Mixed Doubles, which was not put forward by the WCF for Olympic consideration (this is important as five new disciplines were approved this week, from women’s skip jumping to things like team figure skating and mixed relay biathalon… but that’s another debate).

But the real twist is that these mixed doubles duos will be made up of two curlers from different countries! I wonder how that will work with language barriers?

The editor informs me that my fellow TCN columnist Roger Schmidt, who is based in Switzerland, wrote about the approaching Youth Olympics stuff almost two years ago, and commented at that time how the WCF was scrambling to get its member countries to ensure that they could even field a team. Apparently, that youth age curling bracket is really underdeveloped around the world, and that is easy to understand when we in Canada have a U18 championship that is a) combined with the U.S. and also includes teams from Japan, b) named after a charity and c) isn’t sanctioned by any official associations.

Sweden plans to rock hard today

Now back to the event we’re all watching right now!  The men’s worlds are down to the crunch. Whether I’m sitting on the media bench or competing down on the ice, I love playoff time. The music gets pumpin’ between ends, emcee extraordinaire Stu Brown entertains the crowd and the atmosphere is awesome.

Unfortunately, the Page playoff 1 vs 2 game itself wasn’t so awesome. Not that it was terrible, but it certainly didn’t have the entertainment value that people hope for in the playoffs. It was played reasonably wide open, and Scottish skip Tom Brewster missed a few late shots, and all that matters (to me!) is that Canada won and are into the world championship final on Sunday!

Earlier in the afternoon, the red-hot Norwegians beat the scrappy French 5-4 in a tiebreaker and will face Sweden in the Page 3 vs 4 game this afternoon. Earlier in the week, Team Thomas Ulsrud had to accompany Team Niklas Edin out onto the ice before their game against Canada, bow before them, and serve them with their brushes and curling shoes on bended knee… like servants! Pretty funny stuff, and all this was because of a bet the two teams made during a couple of pre-worlds practice games – and the Swedes won both games!

Something tells me today’s game, while friendly, will be taken very seriously. At stake is a spot in tonight’s semifinal (for the winners) while the losers will be bumped down to Sunday’s bronze medal match.

Anil Mungal photos copyright The Curling News® – click on image to increase size

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The Olympic Games: Weirdness and Poignance

By George Karrys

Wacky stuff in Pinerolo today. First up are the Swiss men (photo) in their pre-game footyfest – a typical sight outside European curling venues – before this afternoon’s match against the Kiwis.

First, lead/alternate Simon Struebin lunged a bit too far for the ball and almost sprained his ankle – but no harm done. Then, just a few minutes after this photo was taken, Swiss Assistant Team Leader Pierre-Yves Grivel (not shown) plowed face first into a concrete pillar in an attempt to prevent the ball from getting away. He went to hospital on a stretcher, but the squad insists that he is okay and the Italians are just taking precautions.

In fact, Ralph Stoeckli‘s boys can’t wait for the guy known affectionately as Jimmy Connors to hurry back, so they can begin making fun of him.

A great story from one of the TV guys. A co-worker was in Turin (about 40 minutes away from the venue in Pinerolo) and went to use a pay-toilet. Oh yes. A pay-toilet. Anyway, his two “squares” of paper were dispensed – oh yes, only two squares – and all appeared normal until… well, let’s just say that some pay-per-use toilets in Italy have an automated cleaning system, which apparently gives you only 15 seconds to get the heck out of there after flushing. Said the storyteller:

So if you see a guy walking down the street on a clear sunny day in Italy who looks like a popsicle… you know he didn’t make it.

A couple of Canada facts, definitely weird: both teams have broken off keys in their apartment doors; and men’s lead Jamie Korab has displayed some disturbing shopoholic tendencies… apparently he may go home with up to six enormous bags of… stuff.

FYI, following their weird and wild 6-5 win over Pal Trulsen this aft, the boys are off to the Canadian men’s hockey game in Turin tonight. Meanwhile, the girls lost to Switzerland in the wee hours and have a big match in about 90 minutes against the wily veteran Dordi Nordby.

Switch gears: a poignant anecdote to leave you with. Japanese skip Ayumi Onodera – now a bonafide movie star back home – lost 9-5 to Denmark this morning, dropping Japan to 1-3. The tiny athlete was in tears throughout most of her lengthy media scrum in the mixed zone afterward, but she bravely stood her ground and never once broke down. Her faint voice only quavered, and her eyes flicked down to her feet as she wiped the tears and answered the swarm of reporters.

This is only day four of 12, folks.

Near the end of the ordeal, tireless Japanese curling booster Hiroshi Kobayashi barged through the scrum and embraced Onodero in a bear hug, and the skip’s shoulders seemed to sag just for a moment. Hiro punched her in the arm before for departing, and wiped away tears of his own.

She takes it very hard, Hiro explained. She has to figure things out for herself. This is her challenge and it is for her and no one else.

These and countless other anecdotes summarize the stunning variety of emotional power the Olympic Games reveal. And once in a while, through all the scandals, the finger-pointing and the overwhelming politics often on display, we can spotlight this and simply say: this is what it’s all about.