With Renee Sonnenberg, John Morris, Val Sweeting and Brad Jacobs leading rinks into the Roar of the Rings with strong performances at the Road to the Roar, the field for Canada's Curling Olympics Trials are set.
Those four teams join 12 other pre-qualified rinks to give the men and women eight rinks a side. Those 16 rinks will battle at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg Dec. 1-Dec. 8 for the right to represent Canada at the Sochi Games in February.
As history tells us, these curlers are not just battling for the right to participate in the Olympics, but also for an Olympic medal. Since curling returned to the Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, the Canadian men and women curlers have won a medal in every Olympics.
The Canadian men are the two-time defending Olympic gold medalists, and won silver in the two Olympics proceeding their current run. The women have not had as much success, but they've been successful all the same.
The women took home gold in 1998, bronze in the next two Olympics and then the silver in front of their home fans in Vancouver in 2010.
Check out the vitals for this event, and then I'll offer up a closer look at a few of the most intriguing round-robin matches.
When: Dec. 1-8
Where: MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Canada
Draw: View the full draw at Curling.ca.
Round-robin play will begin competition and run through that Friday. The semifinals and finals for both the men and women will take place on the weekend.
Canada's Olympic men's and women's schedule can be viewed at CBC.ca.
|Team Brad Jacobs||Team Val Sweeting|
|Team John Morris||Team Renee Sonnenberg|
|Team John Epping||Team Rachel Homan|
|Team Mike McEwen||Team Sherry Middaugh|
|Team Kevin Koe||Team Chelsea Carey|
|Team Jeff Stoughton||Team Stefanie Lawton|
|Team Glenn Howard||Team Heather Nedohin|
|Team Kevin Martin||Team Jennifer Jones|
Key Round-Robin Matches
Team John Morris vs. Team Kevin Martin
When: Dec. 6
Coming on the final day of round-robin play, this match could be for a spot in the playoffs. Of course, it may also be meaningless. Either way, it will be filled with drama.
John Morris was part of Kevin Martin's rink that took home the gold in 2010.
Who will win this match?
Marc Kennedy, who is Martin's team second, offered up a detailed interview with Yahoo's Don Landry on Morris' departure. Landry wrote that Kennedy "painted a portrait of a rink in various degrees of disintegration over the last two years or so."
While neither man may admit it, I imagine they are both eager to prove that they skip the superior rink. I expect a top match from both of these quality rinks.
Team Brad Jacobs vs. Team Kevin Martin
When: Dec. 5
For my second highlighted men's match, I went with another qualifier from Road to the Roar against the defending gold medalists.
This one doesn't have the backstory of Martin vs. Morris, but I expect it to have serious playoff implications.
Brad Jacobs' rink was impressive at the Road to the Roar.
Team Brad Jacobs lost a tough match against Morris at the Road, but came back the next match to secure a spot in this field by beating 2006 Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue.
Needless to say, Team Brad Jacobs was excited in victory:
Speaking of Gushue, he will serve as the fifth for Martin's rink, as TSN reports:
As for Jacobs, successfully dealing with the make-or-break atmosphere and pressure of the match against Gushue will have these curlers performing with poise and confidence in this competition. I expect Team Brad jacobs to give Martin's rink all it can handle.
Team Val Sweeting vs. Team Renee Sonnenberg
When: Dec. 5
With defending Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Bernard getting knocked out at the Road to the Roar, the women's side is slim on Olympic experience. That certainly doesn't mean it is without potential, however.
These two rinks are a perfect example. Val Sweeting's rink pulled off an impressive run at the Road that included a victory over Bernard.
Sweeting's rink of Joanne Courtney, Dana Ferguson and Rachelle Pidherny offered up a performance at the Road that inspired curling commentator and Olympic silver medalist Mike Harris to tweet:
Meanwhile, Team Renee Sonnenberg was even more impressive at the Road and the lead-up to it. They won five of six in the pre-trials and then dominated Team Kelly Scott, 12-4, to secure their berth in this event.