Sports

WORLDS

Canada looking to end abbreviated streak at worlds

By Terry Jones, Edmonton Sun

Canada's skip Pat Simmons calls a shot against Japan during the 10th draw of the World Men's Curling Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 31, 2015. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Canada's skip Pat Simmons calls a shot against Japan during the 10th draw of the World Men's Curling Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 31, 2015. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

HALIFAX  - 

Because Canada won both curling gold medals at the Olympics for the first time in history, it hasn’t had much notice.

And with Canada’s dominating start to these Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, it hasn’t exactly been a front burner issue here, either.

But the fact is, Canada has a quiet crisis to overcome — at least to some extent — here.

The fact is that Canada has a couple losing streaks going at the world championships for both genders.

Canada has failed to win gold at seven consecutive women’s worlds, with Jennifer Jones settling for silver this year in Sapporo, Japan.

Indeed, Jones, the Olympic gold-medal winner, was the last Canadian to win the event back in 2008. That’s almost as long ago as the last time the Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs.

In the men’s, Canada has lost back-to-back worlds.

Three-quarters of the team representing this country here this year — Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen — became the first Canadian team to lose three playoff games and only the third in the last 30 years to return home without a medal last year in Beijing.

Canada hasn’t gone three years without winning a world championship since the seven-year drought from 1973 to 1979.

Canadian coach Rick Lang played on one of those teams during that ‘70s drought (bronze in 1975 in Perth, Scotland).

“At least there’s no ‘Curse of LaBonte’ involved,” he laughed.

At the 1972 worlds, Orest Meleschuk of Manitoba appeared to lose the final to Robert LaBonte of the U.S.A. when LaBonte jumped in the air to celebrate — a tad prematurely, obviously — and accidently kicked an unmeasured rock.

Meleschuk had not conceded and thus it was judged Canada must be awarded two points instead of one. That sent the game to an extra end, where Meleschuk won.

LaBonte allegedly put a seven-year curse on Canada.

  • 1973 – Harvey Mazinke, Saskatchewan, 9-0. Lost final.
  • 1974 – Hector Gervais, Edmonton, 7-2. Lost semifinal.
  • 1975 – Bill Tetley, Northern Ontario, 7-2. Lost semifinal.
  • 1976 – Jack McDuff, Newfoundland 2-9.
  • 1977 – Jim Ursel, Quebec, 7-2. Lost final.
  • 1978 – Ed Lukowich, Calgary, 9-2. Lost semifinal.
  • 1979 – Barry Fry, Manitoba, 6-3. Lost semifinal.

Finally Rick Folk of Saskatchewan won gold again after a 9-0 run through the round robin in 1980.

Since then, only once, with 9-0 Kevin Martin of Edmonton in 1991 and 7-2 Vic Peters of Winnipeg the following year, had Canada gone home without gold more than one year in a row until Brad Jacobs (7-4) and Kevin Koe (6-3) did it these last two years.

At least three of the four members of this Canadian team know both sides of the coin.

Rycroft and Thiessen won gold in 2010 and then became the first Canadian team to lose all three playoff games last year. Morris won gold with Kevin Martin after a 10-1 romp through the round robin in 2008 but lost the final after going 10-1 again in 2009 before going to Vancouver 2010 and winning Olympic gold.

“I’m not worried about overconfidence at all,” said Rycroft. “We’re older and we know these teams. And I’ve been there done that.”

The biggest item of background his team has in his pocket is from when he lost the gold-medal game of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Games.

“We beat Pal Trulsen of Norway 7-2 and then lost to him in the final for a gold medal at the Olympics. That ain’t gonna happen!”

The biggest adjustment for this team has been streaking out of the gate instead of trying to catch the field from behind.

“We’re usually slow starters. So we’re out of our comfort zone already,” Rycroft laughed.

“It’s kind of nice to have been the team out front for a change,” said Thiessen. “We’re the team that’s proved that all you have to do is make the dance and then anything can happen.”

Thiessen was part of the first team to come out of the 3-4 game to win the Brier in 2010, won it coming out of the semifinal in 2013 and came from a 2-3 start to go 8-1 and win all three playoff games to win it again this year.

“That’s our goal,” he said. “Make the playoffs. We’re in a better headspace than we were last year. And when we get there, I don’t think we’re going to have any problem with overconfidence. We know how good these teams are.”

Canada had won six straight games before losing their first last night to defending champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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