Canada's curling men not panicking after setbacks

Canadians look to regroup for finish following back-to-back losses

Canada's curling men not panicking after setbacks
Canada's skip Kevin Koe suffered another loss at the Olympics, but remains adamant his team is in a good position. © Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

By Devon Heroux, CBC Sports

Consecutive losses for the Canadian men's team at the Olympics — the latest, an 8-6 defeat to Switzerland — combined with Canada's Rachel Homan's 1-3 start, have fans of the curling-crazed nation growing restless.

The players, however, aren't worried.

"We won't be listening to the critics," third Marc Kennedy said. "We'll just believe in ourselves and keep making shots."

You're not going to see any panic from Kevin Koe's team out of Calgary.

"We've played great," the skip said after the loss to Swizterland. "I just have to tidy up a few shots here or there."

Koe took the blame for the loss against Switzerland. Canada gave up four points to start the game after his draw slid through the house.

"It comes down to one shot…my last rock in one. If I make it, he doesn't get four. The most he would have got was two, maybe even one. Who knows? One shot cost us," he said.

The team never quit though. They battled throughout the game. In fact, down 7-6 in the ninth end it looked like Canada could steal back the lead sitting three rocks buried with Switzerland's skip Benoit Schwarz throwing his last rock.

He made a spectacular hit and roll to score one — it was another turning point in the spirited affair.

 "When you beat Canada, you have to appreciate that," Schwarz said smiling. "Canada is the number one country in the world. To win this is great for confidence."

Canadian dominance

Canadians have dominated in curling at the Olympics. It's been the story for the last 20 years since the game was brought back to the Games.

Since 1998 Canada has medalled in curling at every Olympics, including five gold medals (six if you include mixed doubles.)

The Canadian men are three-time defending curling champions — it's up to Koe and his team to keep the streak alive. The pressure is there. They all know it. In fact, prior to the event Koe, Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert all talked about the target, a maple leaf, on their backs.

They loved it and were embracing it.

But these Olympics are a different beast — the world has been coming for Canada for years. Now the gap is closing fast.

After cruising through the first four games, Koe and company hit a road block. They ran into Nik Edin and his Swedish team which has been curling wonderfully. Edin curled a sparkling 99 per cent against Canada and won 5-2.

Then Canada came out and gave up four against Switzerland.

"We knew coming in that Sweden and Switzerland were our two toughest games," Kennedy said. "We played a really good game. It's just that first end we missed one shot."

That's the new reality at the Olympics.

Finishing strong

Canada finishes the round robin with games against the United States, Japan and Denmark. They have a day-and-a-half break until their next game, which will take place Monday afternoon against the Americans.

At 4-2 and tied with Switzerland for second, Canada will look to win at least two more games to guarantee a playoff spot. The top four teams make the medal round.

"We won't panic. Our goal was to get to six wins. I don't care how we get there," Kennedy said.

Coach John Dunn, who focuses on the mental aspects of the game, says he has no concerns about where the team's head space is after two losses.

"We're playing well. I'm not worried about how we're playing. Everything is going to be good," he said.

Dunn says they'll watch over the last game against Switzerland and take away the positives. He also points to that first end and how fragile of sport curling is.

"That's the crazy thing about our sport. That one shot at that one time can really cost you," Dunn said. "We're disappointed with the result but this isn't over by any means. It's about being here next weekend and we'll be there."