March 30, 2010
Jones' swift response strangeBronze OK but Canadians expect gold
By JIM BENDER, QMI Agency
Sure struck me as strange when Canada's Jennifer Jones said the expectations for her to win gold at the women's world championship were unreasonable.
"I don't think (fans) expect gold, I think the media does and I think that's unfair," Jones objected after winning the bronze medal in Swift Current, Sask. "When I was at the Olympics, Canadians were proud of any colour ... I think it's the media that scrutinizes it and I don't think that's right."
Gee, that's kind of like saying fans don't really expect Canada's hockey teams to win gold at either the Olympics or world championships.
Alberta's Kevin Martin was sheepish about his own record on the international stage until he finally won the world in 2008, then followed that up with the gold at this year's Olympics.
Meanwhile, Jones won the Canadian championship four times in the last six years and the gold medal at the 2008 Worlds. So yes, it was reasonable to expect her to win gold on home soil again, just like people expected Martin to win gold at the Olympics.
No, it does not always work out and the St. Vital squad deserves credit for sucking it up and coming home with a bronze medal -- their second medal in four trips to the Worlds. But it was not so much that they failed to win gold, it was more that they got beaten so badly in the semi-final by a skip who could still be playing junior.
Anyway, here are my impressions of the week that was in Speedy Creek:
Germany's Andrea Schopp won the gold medal 22 years after winning her first. She has seldom been in contention at the most recent Worlds but we should have clued in when she beat Canada's Jones twice.
At 45, Schopp also became the oldest skip to ever win gold at the women's Worlds. And her lead/alternate Stella Heiss became the youngest at 17.
What's more, the often stern German veteran was observed dancing up a storm on top of the bar in the Patch along with other curlers after the closing banquet.
Honourable mention to Latvia, which actually won a game in their very first trip to the world championship. The USA's Erika Brown may never live that down.
Schopp also told reporters she would have preferred to play Canada in the final because she believed Scotland had a better team. News flash: When Eve Muirhead defeated Canada in the semi-final, it was the first time in eight tries that the young lass beat Jones.
Next to Canada, China's Bingyu Wang, the defending champ, missed the playoffs after winning the bronze medal at the Olympics.
MOST QUOTABLE SKIP
This may surprise you but I was impressed with Wang's honesty, despite her struggles with English. She readily admitted her team was tired but was quick to say that was no excuse for losing and she even admitted that she was feeling so low that she wanted to pull herself from the lineup. And when she missed the playoffs, Wang faced two members of the media with tears in her eyes, saying how proud she was of her team for fighting back after three straight losses.
MOST ENDEARING SKIP
Scotland's Muirhead, who may have been the most self-assured newcomer to the international stage.
At the closing banquet, Muirhead -- who has competed at four world bagpipe championships -- gave an impressive demonstration of that talent for about 15 minutes -- within hours of losing the gold medal final to Germany.
"That's the first time I have ever enjoyed hearing the bagpipes," quipped one Canadian reporter.
Muirhead, 19, has already won three junior world championships, skipped the Britain entry at the Olympics and returned home with the silver medal from the Worlds.
"She's the future of curling," Schopp said.
Down 2-0 after the first end, Muirhead made long angle-raise double to score one in the second of the semifinal versus Canada. If she misses, she probably loses.
WHO'S ON FIRST?
During the round robin, the CCA's stats crew chief issued a release that included the following info:
"Russia: Third is playing fourth and skipping; alternate is playing third and vice-skip; skip is alternate."
"That sounds like, who's on first?" joked Jeff Timson, the CCA PR man.
MOST FUN TEAM
There were several but we'll give it to Norway's Linn Githmark, who played several games in what looked like gawdawful polka-dot pyjamas. But the girls were full of life on the ice, laughing, high-fiving and jumping up after shots. After they cracked a four against China, the four Norwegians got together and danced a celebratory twist -- much to the delight of the crowd. But they still lost.
Githmark was also presented with the sportsmanship award.
Speaking of Norway, I am already weary of all the talk about curlers trying to look like John Daly on the ice just to lure more attention. If that's the way they want to grow the game, just have both women and men play in their underwear.