Jennifer Jones, Brad Jacobs ready for pressure of curling playoffs
Jones perfect at 9-0
Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs Canadian Olympic curling teams are exactly where they want to be and were expected to be. The semifinals of curling at the Ice Cube (women's 5 a.m. ET Wednesday, men's 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, live streaming at cbc.ca/olympics).
They carry the weight of a curling crazy country where expectations of gold are high. When it comes to curling, no other country has the depth, experience, and expertise of Canada.
These teams know that. Here in Sochi, from the ice makers, to the officials, the camera men and the high number of Canadians coaching other countries — the Canadian stamp on curling is everywhere.
Jones and Jacobs have reached the semi finals; now the work begins. Even though both teams have played in plenty of huge games before — in this, their biggest bonspiel played under the bright glare of the massive global Olympic market, the stakes are high.
You could finish first and have gold or you could finish fourth and get nothing. The semifinals are high pressure.
Jennifer Jones made Olympic history by being the first women's team to be perfect in the round robin at 9-0.
She plays Great Britain's Eve Muirhead, the reigning World champion in the semi. Muirhead is an awesome player with a fearless team and Muirhead has every shot in the book in her arsenal.
But here in Sochi, she has sputtered along at times. Some say the pressure of being Britain's gold medal favourite is a lot for her. She almost beat Canada in the round robin, but a big mistake in the 10th end when Great Britain could have sat four caused things to go south.
The point being, Britain is probably the one team that won't be intimidated by the Jones rink. They stuck with them in the round robin and I expect Jones will have a battle right to last rock.
What I love about the Jones team is their demeanour. They keep saying they are having fun, soaking it all in and living the dream. They are. The whole team is playing well, but Jones herself has taken her game to a level that is truly in a league of her own.
She'll need that to move onto the gold medal game. This semifinal should be a classic match between two established curling countries.
Jacobs in battle of new vs. old
Different in the men's semifinal on Thursday. A relatively new curling country, China up against Canada. If you recall the men's round robin game between China's Rui Liu and Canada's Brad Jacobs, it was a nail-biter, extra-end draw to the button for a Canadian win.
It's hard to predict whether it'll be the same kind of game because China's experience at this level is untested. You can give some credit to China's success to Canadian coach Marcel Rocque, from the great Randy Ferbey curling dynasty.
China goes into this game with nothing to lose. All of the pressure is on the Brad Jacobs rink to do what's expected and that is to win.
Every time I have talked to the Jacobs rink in the mixed zone after their games, they have shown every emotion.
If I had to sum up Jacobs after my last interview, it's this. He and his team are ready. Second stone E.J. Harnden hopes the game provides a lot of fist pumping moments and "come on's."
That's when you know this team is firing on all cylinders. They might have started their Olympics slowly with a 1-2 record. But that is in the distant past.
They are just looking at this one game against China with the hope they'll move onto the gold medal game.
The other men's semi is between Sweden and Great Britain, while the other women's semi is Sweden and Switzerland. All great teams, but none have the pressure and expectations that Come with wearing the maple leaf.