March 27, 2011
Team Canada's silver a great achievement
By GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency
Canada’s journey to Sunday’s Capital One World Women’s Curling Championship final was truly epic.
In the end, it’s impossible to call their last-rock loss a choke.
For Amber Holland and her Saskatchewan foursome, just making it to the final was a feat in itself. Mired at 1-3 early in the week and with curling fans around the country wringing their hands, the girls put their heads down and ground out five victories in their next six games just to qualify for a tiebreaker.
They then had to win four straight games to take the gold. They got three of them, disposing of two-time Olympic silver medalists Switzerland and Vancouver Olympic bronze medalists China along the way.
Sure, the other playoff win – against the hard-luck Danish team skipped by Lene Neilsen — was an escape act of Houdini-esque proportions.
The final against mighty Anette Norberg of Sweden – double Olympic gold, two world titles, countless European championships and the class of the field all week with a 9-2 record.
Things looked bleak early on. Norberg led 2-0 and the Canucks were struggling when Holland pulled another rabbit out of her hat, making a brilliant split to lie two. Clearly startled, the veteran Swede failed at a run-back and Canada scored three to rejoin the hunt.
Was this final somewhat sloppy? Yes. Was it boring? Certainly not.
Eventually, Holland faced a tricky draw against three Swedish counters for a title that looked quite unlikely throughout the week. However, a long guard forced her to wait forever to engage the brushes and the skip’s perfect weight still fell short.
“We’re disappointed,” Holland said. “We played a pretty good game. We weren’t as sharp off the start as wanted to be, and didn’t play the 10th end very well.
“I think, for us, silver is a great achievement.”
Indeed. This was easily the best global silver a Canadian curling team has captured in recent memory – a silver won, not a gold lost.
Nearly 30 Team Canada family members made the trip to Esbjerg, giving the Canucks the loudest cheering section of the playoffs. Their penchant for blaring horns in a small, half-filled and very chilly arena was icing on the cake.
Jeff Stoughton’s Team Canada begins its quest for the 2011 Ford Worlds men’s trophy in Regina on Saturday against Switzerland’s Christof Schwaller. TSN will have saturation coverage of all 11 Canadian games, plus playoffs, right through to the April 10 final at 7:30pm ET.
Five years ago, Thornhill’s Austin Palmer founded the Grand Masters Curling Association, an organization for curling keeners aged 70 and over.
Saturday, on home ice, Palmer finally won the 2011 Diversicare Ontario Grand Masters title after four previous failures to qualify for “his” own provincial.
It was a wild final which saw the hometown team edge Kitchener-Waterloo Granite’s John Scott 10-9 in an extra end.
“This could be called a journey of a lifetime, from a dream to reality,” said Palmer, who is in remarkable physical shape at age 83.
The Grand Masters attained provincial sanction for the first time this season, and 16 squads battled for the trophy which saw Ottawa’s Rod Matheson finish third and two-time champion Peter Barker of Mississauga Dixie claim fourth.
Richmond Hill’s Art Lobel — who won the 1977 Brier plus three Canadian Seniors crowns and a Masters title – will replace Palmer as GMCC president and wants to see more provinces endorse the 70+ age category.
“Five years ago I called every association,” Lobel said. “Only two got back to me. Alberta said thanks, but they were too busy and Newfoundland asked for the info but I never heard back from them.”
Palmer was supported by teammates Larry Duncan, Clive MacMahon and Tom Karrys – congratulations, dad!