Kevin Koe's team hits 'rock bottom' with bronze-game defeat

Loss leaves Canada without a medal in traditional curling in Pyeongchang

Kevin Koe's team hits 'rock bottom' with bronze-game defeat
Kevin Koe © Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports

They were shocked, disappointed and not mincing words — Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert walked off the ice in Pyeongchang dejected.

"That was brutal," Hebert said. "I thought yesterday was rock bottom and today is proving to be worse. It taints the Olympic experience."

A day after their semifinal defeat to the United States, Koe and his Calgary rink lost Friday's Olympic bronze-medal game 7-5 to Switzerland.

Before this week, no Canadian curling team had ever failed to reach the podium at the Olympics since the sport was reintroduced to the Games in 1998. But after John Morris and Kaitylyn Lawes won gold in the new game of mixed doubles, the conventional teams skipped by Koe and Rachel Homan, who fell short of the women's medal round, will both leave Pyeongchang without a medal. 

"There's no way to sugar coat it," Hebert said. "We were prepared. We practised. We said all the right things and when it came down to it our execution was brutal."

Koe knew the competition would be tough — but he never imagined this outcome.

"This was the biggest bonspiel of our lives. It's definitely going to sting for a while," the skip said.

"It comes with the territory of wearing the maple leaf," Kennedy said. "People think you're going to win and sometimes you don't.

"It's sport. You can reflect as much as you want and beat yourself up or look at the positives and good things we did and move on."

'Getting tougher'

Paul Webster is Curling Canada's high performance coach. He was also one of the team leaders for Koe's rink at the Olympics.

He fought back tears in the press zone as he tried to describe the moment.

"We've had relationships with these guys for a long time. I've known Marc, Ben and Kevin for about 20 years. You just want to see them perform," he said. 

There's no doubt questions will be asked of Curling Canada about this Olympic performance. Webster said a review is scheduled for April to go over everything.

"Humble pie is something that's really hard to eat," he said. "Curling is in a healthy spot and we will get Canadian curling there. It sends a strong message to our teams that we've got work to do."

Webster said it was no secret that the world was gaining on Canada in curling. There were no illusions of strolling onto the podium without a fight in South Korea. 

"We've asked for parity in our sport for the longest time. We came into these Olympics knowing it was there and we have a strong indication it is there."

An elated Benoit Schwarz, the Swiss fourth, was thrilled about his team's bronze-medal win and shocked about the Canadians; performance at the Olympics.

"It's crazy. It feels unreal. Especially with those two teams [Koe and Homan]. They are some of the best in the world, if not the best ever. I can't explain it."

Schwarz echoed what the Canadians said — the gap has closed in the curling world.

"The international field is getting tougher. All you have to do is look at the [Grand] Slams," he said. "But it feels really weird not to have the Canadians on the podium."