Canadians humbled in Brantford

Jo-Ann Rizzo (left) and skip Sherry Middaugh call a shot during final game action in Brantford on...

Jo-Ann Rizzo (left) and skip Sherry Middaugh call a shot during final game action in Brantford on Monday. Middaugh was the only Canadian team to make the final four of the women's and men's World Curling Tour, and defeated Erika Brown of the United States. (Robert Wilson/Photo)

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

TORONTO - Canada recently got its curling butt kicked — but good.

Sixty-four big-name teams showed up for the Sun Life Financial Classic in Brantford over the weekend and the vast majority of them — 52 in fact — hailed from the host country.

But how many Canuck squads made it into the men’s and women’s championship finals? Just one out of four.

The men’s title bout was an all-European affair as Sweden’s Niklas Edin downed Switzerland’s Sven Michel 7-2 for the $12,000 first prize.

Defending champion Mike “McWin” McEwen of Winnipeg lost his semifinal to Michel, whiffing an open takeout that just happened to roll an inch too far after contact. In the other semi, Edin defeated yet another European, young Danish hotshot Rasmus Stjerne.

On the women’s side, Sherry Middaugh’s Ontario foursome salvaged some national pride with an 8-3 championship win over Erika Brown of the United States — who happens to live in Oakville, just a few minutes down the highway from Brantford. Another team from across the pond, skipped by Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, boasted a quarterfinal appearance.

What the heck is going on here?

BRANT BROOM BITS

The Sun Life is one of the few World Curling Tour cashspiels that gives the women’s side equal prize money, meaning that Team Middaugh also scored a $12,000 payday … the win vaulted Middaugh into first place on the WCT women’s money list, a full 10,000 ahead of Winnipeg’s Cathy Overton-Clapham, but Middaugh’s real winnings are actually $41,000 thanks to an October event win that wasn’t sanctioned by the WCT. Her total cash haul would be good enough for fourth spot in the men’s rankings, behind McEwen, Olympic champ Kevin Martin and former world champ Glenn Howard and just ahead of past world kingpins Randy Ferbey and Kevin Koe. Three of the top 10 WCT women’s teams are from outside Canada, specifically Russia’s Liudmila Privivkova, Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott and Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson, while another five foreign squads are ranked in the top 20. Three of the men’s top 15 are from outside Canada — Edin, Michel and Scotland’s Tom Brewster.

NO MONEY NO HONEY

Speaking of Martin, he and his Vancouver 2010 golden boys were unceremoniously bounced from Brantford before the playoff round — an occasion that has many a curling follower scratching his or her noggin to recall the last time the Old Bear was shut out of the money.

(The answer? The Grand Slam at Guelph soon after KMart won the Olympic trials.)

The Edmontonians started with an easy win over Mike Fournier of Quebec, who had been stuck, unmoving, for some four hours on the 401 Highway the night before due to an accident — but then suffered an unexpected 4-3 loss to former Canadian Mixed finalist Mark Bice of Sarnia. Martin rebounded with a victory over a New York foursome but then came a clash with rival McEwen, who scored a huge 7-1 win.

Martin’s misery peaked in the C-side against Edin, who prevailed by a 5-3 count. The young Swedes, who finished just out of the medals at Vancouver 2010, also beat Martin in last month’s Grand Slam in Sault Ste. Marie.

NO GREY POUPON?

Don’t cry for the Martinites, however, they are still in demand for lucrative promotional appearances and speaking engagements, and one of the lads was spotted noshing on a rather high-end pre-game snack one night in Brantford: Lobster tails.

MIXED MAYHEM

Saskatchewan’s Jason Ackerman stole the Canadian Mixed title from under Alberta’s nose, but the fun doesn’t end there.

Two of the four players now get to represent Canada at the World Mixed Doubles titleshoot in Turkey, but all four want to go. So the newly christened champions will split into pairs and battle each other in a future playoff to see which twosome gets to wear the Maple Leaf.

If that sounds crazy, it is.

Before the playoffs, Alberta skip Kurt Balderston had harsh words for the way Canada — which doesn’t have a national championship for mixed doubles — is (not) settling this issue.

“If they’re going to (send a team) Canada has to send all four curlers, and then decide who is playing in each game,” said Balderston. “You cannot, cannot, tell two people to stay home from a world championship. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s just wrong in every sense. You have to send all four players. For the countries that don’t play mixed doubles, that’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Balderston is right on. However, the ultimate solution is for Canada to bite the cost bullet and create a proper mixed doubles national, and start pushing the discipline as an entry-level attraction for new curling memberships. Perhaps the CCA could then force a deal with the World Curling Federation whereby they would then create a four-player mixed worlds.

Meanwhile, relegation has become a possible reality for the unfortunate teams from Newfoundland/Labrador and Nova Scotia, each of whom finished with 4-9 win/loss records, Nunavut (1-12) and the Yukon (0-13) who will now play a knockout competition to decide which two squads miss out on the new 12-team Mixed for 2013.

Veteran Brier skip Steve Moss of the Northwest Territories led his mixed squad to a 6-7 record, just ahead of the drop zone.

MORE BROOM BITS

Tuesday marked the start of The Dominion Curling Club Championship in Richmond, B.C. The popular event is now in its third year of providing recreational curlers with the same kind of royal treatment normally bestowed on high-performance curling athletes, and the rank amateurs simply love it. The curling itself isn’t half-bad, either.

 


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