Canadian curling rinks capable of sweeping to Sochi gold
Jennifer Jones, Brad Jacobs aiming for gold in Sochi
The Ice Cube. Usually something you put in a drink. But it's also the Olympic venue for curling and Canada is sending two gold medal favourites to the Cube.
Brad Jacobs and his hard hittin', playin' machine of a team are an intimidating presence while Jennifer Jones' foursome have been dominating the women's landscape for a decade.
Four years ago at the Vancouver Olympics, I was sitting on the media bench with Jennifer Jones. If you are a competitive athlete, the bench is a tough place to sit and watch. But not for Jennifer Jones. This was another way to get better. "It was amazing to see it from the other side", she told me. "I learned a lot just watching Cheryl Bernard's team and how they really stuck together and supported each other."
Jones and her team of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen put together a plan to get to Sochi.
Obviously it worked perfectly because they are here; but the plan had a few detours. For starters, Jones couldn't have envisioned blowing out her right knee and needing surgery.
Knee surgery has been the death of many a great curler--but not Jennifer. She also delivered her first child, Isabella in November 2012. Between knee surgery rehab and delivering a baby, I asked her if she thought the Olympic dream might have been over.
"I really wasn't sure how I would come back. Before surgery, I was scared, but I was determined to not let my team down and I had a great medical team too."
Determined is an excellent word to describe Jennifer Jones. Neither knee surgery nor a baby could derail this Olympic dream.
On the men's side, Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie rink will try to repeat the gold medal performances from Brad Gushue's 2006 and Kevin Martin's 2010 Olympics.
On Brad Jacobs' team webpage there is this quote: "When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful."
That pretty much sums up their intensity. Their fist pumping, "come on" screaming, approach is a breath of fresh air to the calm demeanour of most curlers. Jacobs road to the Olympics began by taking the longest journey. They were the last team to earn their spot into the Roar of the Rings in Winnipeg.
Once there, they knocked off the giants in the field to earn the right to wear the Olympic rings. The team is known for having every shot in their tool box, something they worked hard on.
"We need the full arsenal. We looked to how Kevin Martin's team had that and we try to do that as well. It was something we struggled with earlier, the softer weight shots, but we have two of the best sweepers in the world. Run-backs are our weapon, but you need the whole package". They have the whole package, but a rumble goes through the crowd when the team gets a sniff at a double run-back. They are making impossible shots look routine. Just making your way out of the incredible Canadian Olympic Trials field is a bell weather; when you survive that, you can win anything.
Still, the international field is strong and the defending World Champions, Sweden's Nic Edin and Great Britain's Eve Muirhead are not shrinking violets. We'll take a look at the contenders at the Ice Cube in my next blog post.