Saturday, December 7, 2013

The problem with curling is ...

[insert joke/smart aleck comment here: _______________]

The problem with curling isn't one of those typical arguments against curling, the problem with curling in Canada is that we only get to send one men's team and one ladies' team to the Olympics when numerous Canadian teams could win a medal.

Canada's Olympic representatives are decided this weekend at Roar of the Rings in Winnipeg. The format is a round robin tournament where all 8 teams play each other. The leader after the round robin gets a bye directly to the final. Second place and third place play in a semi-final.

Team Jennifer Jones and Team Brad Jacobs won their respective round robins and are one win away from going to their first Olympics.

Canada has won two curling medals at the Olympics since its return to the Games in 1998.

2010 - Kevin Martin (gold), Cheryl Bernard (silver)
2006 - Brad Gushue (gold), Shannon Kleibrink (bronze)
2002 - Kevin Martin (silver), Kelley Law (bronze)
1998 - Mike Harris (silver), Sandra Schmirler (gold)

Watching Roar of the Rings this week, it's heartbreaking to see the Olympic dream disappear for worthy teams. Some of them go from being a potential Olympic medalist to not being an Olympian at all.

There are other sports where we only send one team or one athlete, but in most of those cases, potential medalists don't stay home.

The good thing about curling is that it does have longevity. Unlike many sports where you reach your prime in your teens or early twenties, your Olympic dream can last for multiple Olympic cycles.

So where do the curling teams stand at day 6 of Roar of the Rings?

Still alive:
Brad Jacobs 7-0
Kevin Martin 6-1
John Morris 4-3 (Olympic gold at 2010 with Kevin Martin)

Mike McEwen 3-4
Jeff Stoughton 3-4
Kevin Koe 2-5
Glenn Howard 2-5
John Epping 1-6

Who do we cheer for? Kevin Martin or John Morris who have been Olympians already (will anything ever compare to winning gold on home soil?) or Brad Jacobs who is a potential first time Olympian?

Still alive:
Jennifer Jones 6-1
Rachel Homan 4-3
Sherry Middaugh 4-3

Chelsea Carey 4-3 (eliminated in tie-break vs Sherry Middaugh)
Val Sweeting 3-4
Heather Nedohin 3-4
Stefanie Lawton 2-5
Renee Sonnenberg 2-5

Upcoming Matches:
Friday evening: women's semi (Sherry Middaugh won 10-4 as I'm writing)
Saturday afternoon: men's semi
Saturday evening: women's final
Sunday afternoon: men's final

Rachel Homan won a bronze medal at the World Championships last year. It's amazing that a world championships medalist doesn't qualify for the Olympics. This wouldn't happen in most sports. The issue with curling is that just like there's more than one team who could medal at the Olympics, more than one team could medal at the World Championships.

So this weekend is Canada's Olympics. The athletes who are potentially Olympic medalists will be decided. Heartbreaking for the others.

The reason that we only get to send one team is that only 10 teams compete at the Olympics. They play a round-robin tournament. Having more teams (and really even if you have 16 teams or 20 teams), other countries should be represented if they are competitive.

Curling could have a pool type of draw like the World Cup in soccer to handle more teams. They could have qualifying like figure skating, where the best countries can send a second team. I like some curling teams from other countries. I can't imagine them not being at the Olympics. This issue isn't just a Canadian issue.

It's a fine line for a team of 4 to be compared to a team of 12. I guess we could argue that we could send two hockey teams and they could both medal - do we still have that much depth? Team USA could send two basketball teams.

The issue with curling is that we're not sending our top 4 curlers. Hockey, soccer and basketball choose the top players in the country to send.

So even if I understand why, only getting to send one team is the problem with curling for me.

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