Curling Shortcomings in 2018 Made Canada Modify for Beijing Olympics

Disenchanted. Demoralized. Dejected.

Those that had been concerned can keep in mind the emotions that consumed them 4 years in the past.

“It actually made me shake my head: What do we have to do? How will we flip this round? This isn’t who we’re!” Renee Sonnenberg recalled in a current interview.

It was nothing wanting a nationwide emergency. The nation? Canada. The disaster? Curling.

For Sonnenberg, a coach with the nationwide group, and so many others within the Canadian curling neighborhood, this month’s Beijing Video games are a fresh opportunity for a revival after the nation’s humbling efficiency on the 2018 Video games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Canada, lengthy the world’s most dominant pressure in curling, got here away with a single, lonely medal.

“I most likely spent the primary yr following that questioning whether or not I might have achieved one thing in another way,” Sonnenberg stated. “There’s a saying that you simply’re both profitable or studying. And after we didn’t win, we had higher study from it.”

In Beijing, Canadian curlers are hopeful that they’ll apply a few of these classes — many have doubled down, for instance, on using curling analytics (sincere) — whereas recognizing that the sport’s global landscape has shifted.

“We received a lot, and Canada had achieved so properly, that we might not have been areas the place we might enhance,” stated Marc Kennedy, a three-time Olympian who’s the alternate for the Canadian males’s group on the 2022 Video games. “We thought we might stick with the established order as a result of it was working. However Pyeongchang pressured us to go searching and say, ‘What can we do higher?’ As a result of truthfully, the standard of worldwide curling has gone by way of the roof.”

Heading into the 2018 Video games, the Canadians had been a podium-topping colossus, having received medals in males’s and girls’s curling at each Olympics since 1998, when the quirky ice sport performed with brooms and granite rocks made its return to the Video games. (Curling made a cameo on the 1924 Video games in Chamonix, France, and returned sporadically in later years as an indication sport.)

Kennedy recalled being a part of the four-person males’s group that won gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, the place he studied the draw earlier than the competitors and recognized solely two opponents he thought might presumably topple Canada.

“And that’s not making an attempt to be cocky,” Kennedy stated. “However we had been virtually on the rostrum earlier than we bought there. It was only a matter of which shade medal we had been going to get.”

Extra just lately, although, rival international locations have made vital investments of their curling packages, closing the hole on Canada. That a lot was clear 4 years in the past.

“You’ll be able to’t simply slap a maple leaf in your again and be assured a medal anymore,” stated Paul Webster, Canada’s nationwide improvement coach and its longtime Olympic group chief.

In Pyeongchang, the ladies’s group fell wanting making the playoffs, and the boys’s group misplaced within the bronze medal recreation to Switzerland. Canada’s solely comfort was a gold medal in blended doubles, an occasion that was making its Olympic debut and one which some curling purists think about a dilution of the game.

Kennedy, who performed for the boys’s group in Pyeongchang, stated he understood why followers again residence had been so upset.

“They’re passionate,” he stated, “and when issues don’t go properly, they wish to blow all the pieces up. However that’s OK, as a result of which means you’ve achieved one thing actually good along with your sport previously, and it’s essential embrace that.”

Canadian officers had been cagey about a few of the particular modifications that they had made since Pyeongchang — “Each nation thinks they’ve bought the key sauce,” Sonnenberg stated — however gamers and coaches cited their rising acceptance of superior analytics, going as far as to work with knowledge scientists from Canadian Tire, a accomplice of the nation’s Olympic committee.

“When do you are taking dangers?” Sonnenberg requested. “How do you shield a lead whenever you maintain a bonus? What techniques are you utilizing? After which, on a person stage, what photographs am I most profitable at or least profitable at? The place can I enhance?”

There was additionally extra of an emphasis on arranging methods to have members of elite groups in Canada — a few of whom stay far aside — get collectively for a number of further days earlier than massive competitions, just like the occasions that comprise the Grand Slam of Curling. There was additionally a spotlight once they had been collectively to make sure their exercises tended to be extra focused primarily based on what their coaches had gleaned from analytics.

“If we have now three two-hour periods earlier than our subsequent Slam, the place ought to we make investments our time?” Sonnenberg stated. “‘Here’s what the numbers are saying. So let’s put our power there.’”

In current weeks, Sonnenberg has scoured YouTube and social media for footage of Canada’s Olympic competitors whereas compiling scouting experiences. Her experiences, she stated, are extra thorough than they had been in Pyeongchang.

“After I first began doing this, I might solely deal with sitting at my pc for like an hour earlier than my mind felt full,” Sonnenberg stated.

Why? As a result of whereas many international locations, like Sweden, choose their nationwide groups properly forward of the Olympics and finance them year-round, Canada nonetheless has its huge pool of elite curlers slug it out at its nationwide trials, one of many world’s most daunting competitions.

Canada might observe different international locations by handpicking its nationwide group and foregoing the trials course of. (Sweden, in any case, was a pressure in Pyeongchang, the place its women’s team received gold and its males took silver after dropping to the United States.) However such a transfer would come on the expense of the game’s reputation — and its very ethos — in Canada, the place the Olympic dream runs by way of native, regional and provincial competitions.

“You’d lose an entire bunch of occasions, and participation would lower,” Webster stated.

Consequently, Curling Canada, the game’s nationwide governing physique, has continued to unfold the wealth, offering monetary help to 6 males’s groups and 5 ladies’s groups throughout the newest Olympic cycle, Sonnenberg stated.

“We will’t create one or two superpowers in Canada,” she stated. “We would like 5 – 6 nice groups that push one another.”

Kennedy, who is aware of all in regards to the highs and lows of Olympic competitors, cautioned towards the suggestion that Canadian curlers wanted to reshape their complete method. 4 years in the past, he stated, the boys’s group was a shot or two away from landing on the podium. There may be merely extra parity now, he stated, although he sounded an optimistic word for Beijing.

“Our groups are fairly properly ready,” he stated, “and I’m fairly positive issues will work out.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/07/sports activities/curling-canada.html Curling Shortcomings in 2018 Made Canada Modify for Beijing Olympics

Fry Electronics Team

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