Monday, November 18, 2013

US Olympic Trials for Curling

Lately I've been publishing topics of "general curling interest" on the Triangle Curling Club webpage. But I should probably keep opinion pieces like this here, so...yeah.

Last weekend, NBCSN televised the US Olympic Trials for curling, in which the best women's team directly qualifies for Sochi, while the best men's team qualifies for a qualifier to go to Sochi. (More on that later). I watched pretty much every single end that was televised, plus some of the web-only coverage from earlier in the week. I'm dedicated.

We have two strong established teams on the women's side: Team Pottinger and Team Brown. Between them, they've basically won 7 of the last 8 national championships (save for a lineup change here and there). And, although the 2010 Olympics didn't go particularly well, these teams are generally good enough to compete on the world stage. So, no surprise that the women's final for the Olympic berth featured those same two teams. And given the way Team Brown played both this weekend and at the most recent World Championships (4th place, behind Scotland/Sweden/Canada in some order), I'm pretty confident we'll have a much stronger showing in Sochi than in Vancouver. I feel pretty good about our chances on the women's side.

The US men don't seem to have any dominant teams that win every year, though. We've had three different teams win the last three national championships, and on top of that, a fourth team - led by John Shuster - won this weekend's trials. Unfortunately, I'm not as confident in our men's team's chances as I am the women. I thought there was a noticeable difference in the quality of play on the men's side versus the women's side. Many more missed shots with the men, it seemed. Perhaps it's no coincidence, then, that the men are the ones that haven't qualified for Sochi yet.

Will Team Shuster advance through next month's "Olympic Qualification Event" (8 teams for 2 spots) and make the Olympics? Just as importantly, will we be able to watch the Qualification Event, like we were the Trials? I haven't heard yet; I guess that's up to NBC; I would assume they own the rights since it's Olympics-related. Maybe they'll stick it on that Universal Sports channel or something. Either way, I really hope the men make it to Sochi, because our curling lives depend on it!!!

Perhaps that's a bit of an extreme take on things, but here's the thing. As Amber has a way of reminding me whenever I watch sports, no matter how badly the sports teams I root for do - and most of them do pretty badly - it doesn't really affect my life. The performance of the United States curling teams in the Olympics, however, might be the only sporting event where it does. The better we do in the Olympics, the more members our local curling club might hope to get? Maybe not, I don't know; after all, our club membership nearly doubled in 2010, despite the US teams both finishing in last place in Vancouver. I think as long as we're in Sochi and putting on competitive and interesting games - and that was the case even in Vancouver; despite the dual last place finishes, the games were competitive - it doesn't really matter how many games the US wins, in terms of how many new club members we might hope to recruit. But, not having a United States men's team in Sochi at all might be different. So, no pressure, guys! Every curling club across the country is counting on you!

I will say this about Team Shuster, though: they certainly aren't lacking in confidence. And that could go a long way in this Olympic Qualification Event thingy, in which their competition will consist of teams that they should (hopefully) be able to beat, as opposed to Canada/Scotland/Norway/Sweden/etc. But if Olympic qualification comes down to a draw for the win in the final end of the final game...I might pass out. (Good thing I'm not the one who has to make that shot, eh?)

So, good luck to Team Brown in Sochi! And, good luck to Team Shuster in Germany next month, and (hopefully) in Sochi, too! We're pulling for you.

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