Canadian curlers turn to Babcock for Olympic advice

Canada's skip Brad Jacobs gestures after winning their men's curling semifinal game against China...

Canada's skip Brad Jacobs gestures after winning their men's curling semifinal game against China at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi February 19, 2014. (REUTERS)

TED WYMAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 5:31 AM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - A week ago, when they were sitting with a 1-2 record and looking up at the field in the Olympic curling tournament, Brad Jacobs and his teammates drew some inspirational words from someone who knows a thing or two about winning medals.

“When we were 1-2 we talked to Mike Babcock,” Jacobs said. “And he said ‘You’re 1-2, that doesn’t mean anything. It’s how you finish. Just go out there and execute.’

“That’s exactly what we’ve done. It was nice to take his advice.”

Babcock, of course, is the men’s hockey coach who guided Canada to the gold medal in Vancouver and has his team in the semifinal again here in Sochi. He’s also won a Stanley Cup and coached Canada to a world championship.

The Jacobs team came into Sochi as Olympic rookies and got off to a rough start, perhaps feeling the pressure of wearing the Maple Leaf, perhaps just experiencing big-game jitters.

But since that conversation with Babcock, they’ve been lights out. Their seventh straight win on Wednesday propelled them into the gold-medal game on Friday against Great Britain.

Looking very much now like the team that won both the Brier and Canadian Curling Trials in 2013, the Jacobs foursome from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., seems to have embraced the early adversity and turned it in their favour.

“We’ve got a lot of fight in us, a lot of resilience and perseverance,” Jacobs said. “We’re not afraid to be in a close game and have to make our last one to win. I really like that we’ve had a lot of close games. That has really helped us out with our nerves.”

The Jacobs team took Thursday night and a bit of Friday to celebrate the fact they’ve already won a medal for Canada. But it was clear they won’t be satisfied to settle for silver.

One day after winning the Canadian Trials in December, their mantra was “Nothing but gold,” and that certainly hasn’t changed today.

“Probably, for me, I’ve probably already forgotten about (winning the semifinal),” lead Ryan Harnden said. “We came here and we want to win the gold medal.”

So how do you go about doing that? The Great Britain team skipped by David Murdoch is a strong one and the Canadians will have to be at their absolute best – as they were in Wednesday’s semifinal win over China – to take their place at the top of the podium.

“You just rely on your experience and you rely on big games that you’ve already played in,” second E.J. Harnden said.

“We know we’re going to get a fight. We’re going to have to come out and play our 90-95%, hopefully 95%-plus games.”

E.J. Harnden said the key to the team’s turnaround was all about ignoring the enormity of their situation and simply treating the Olympic tournament like any other bonspiel.

“Honestly, the discussion we had when we went 1-2 was “OK guys, let’s forget about what this is, the importance of it, the magnitude, the massive stage that the Olympics is and let’s just get back to playing one game at a time, one shot at a time, which got us here,” he said.

“That’s what we did at the Trials and for us it’s no different from what we’ve done as we’ve gone on this roll. We’re not going to change anything. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”

The Jacobs team showed off most of their tricks in their curling bags on Wednesday in the 10-6 win over China, junking up the house and then using big weight shots and finesse draws to score multiple-point ends.

What has set the team apart the last couple of years is their ability to hit and clean house when necessary and you can be sure that will be factor in the gold medal game.

“We have E.J., who probably is one of the better hitters in the game, followed by me, who’s a pretty good hitter and then Brad himself is a great hitter,” third Ryan Fry said. “If we get up, when we are on that game, as we showed in the Olympic Trials, it’s tough to score deuces against us.”

Jacobs was happy to have Thursday off to prepare for the final and said the schedule at this tournament worked in their favour. Canada had a bye on Monday and all the curlers were off on Tuesday before the semifinals on Wednesday.

“The couple days off really helped our team,” Jacobs said. “We needed the rest. We literally didn’t do a whole lot. It was so key for our team to get that rest. Everybody came out there rejuvenated and you could tell that the rest paid off.”

Canada has been in the final of every men’s Olympic curling tournament since 1998. Here’s a look at Canada fared:

YEAR LOCATION TEAM MEDAL

  • 1998 Nagano Mike Harris Silver
  • 2002 Salt Lake City Kevin Martin Silver
  • 2006 Turin Brad Gushue Gold
  • 2010 Vancouver Kevin Martin Gold
  • 2014 Sochi Brad Jacobs TBA
Click to enlarge and open in new window

Videos

Photos