Roar of the Rings

So, this weekend was the “Roar of the Rings”, where Canada decides what teams it’s sending to the Olympics to represent it in curling. Considering that Canada has enough teams to pretty much fill out the Grand Slam of Curling — that draws teams from around the world — whose top teams are generally Canadian, as you might imagine there are a lot of really strong teams participating, on both the men’s and the women’s sides. But since I focus on women’s curling, I’ll talk about the women’s side only here.

Rachel Homan won the spot, beating Chelsea Carey 6-5. Carey had a double opportunity in the tenth to send it to an extra end, and didn’t make it. Homan, you could see in the replay focusing on her as the shot was taken, pretty much expected her to make that shot, and was surprised and, of course ecstatic when the shot was missed and she got the win.

To be honest, I was hoping that Carey wouldn’t win that game. Part of this was because Cathy Overton-Clapham joined her team at third to replace Amy Nixon, and I’ve never really liked her, partly because she played for a long time with Jennifer Jones and partly because she tended to be aggressive and often critical during games, which rubbed me the wrong way. She was much better with Carey in this tournament, but one worry I had was that both Carey and Overton-Clapham can be critical at times, although Carey is more self-critical and Overton-Clapham is more openly critical of the team at times. If things started to go wrong, if they started being critical the team could collapse. Yes, Amy Nixon was as passionate at times, but they’d known her longer and were less likely to just take it personally. And it was likely that something would go wrong because while they went undefeated in the round robin, they played poorly and got away with it. As I commented when I talked about the Boost National, that’s not good. Winning while playing poorly gives you less incentive to change your game, but the errors will catch up with you eventually. If Carey had squeaked out the win here, there was a good chance that she’d struggle at the Olympics. Given that after she won the Scotties she did poorly at the Worlds, history repeating itself was not unlikely.

The other playoff team, Jennifer Jones, was in the same situation coming in, and it hit her about half-way through. She started off with a win streak while not necessarily playing well, and then ended on a losing streak. I think she went 5 – 0 to start and then dropped her next 5, including the semi-final. However, if she had squeaked it out I would have had less concerns about her because she had the experience to correct it if things went south at the Olympics. However, given what happened here, that might still have been too late.

Homan was coming in relatively cold, and played poorly in her first two games, going 1 – 1. Then she went on a tear, winning her last eight games to win the spot. This ties into what I commented on at the Boost, where at least they knew that they had been playing poorly and needed to correct, and having the example of Val Sweeting who went 0 – 3 and was almost out of it before she had even won a game to look at, that Jones and Carey didn’t have because they were still winning. And since Homan has won a Worlds, she likely can handle the pressure of an Olympics.

One thing that I noticed about Homan’s team — which might indicate the future of women’s curling — is just how good at sweeping every member of that team is. Teams like Carey’s or Sweeting’s have a strong front end, but the thirds are older and not quite as good at sweeping. And, in general, this was fine, because the rocks that you really need to sweep well are the third and skip stones, and your front end does that. But Homan has two of the best front end sweepers in the women’s game — Lisa Weagle and Joanne Courtney — and on top of that Emma Miskew is pretty much as good a sweeper as any on the team, and Homan herself is pretty good at sweeping, too. They can sweep stones out of the rings if needed and Homan even jumps in to help herself at times. There were a number of shots made by sweeping, so maybe sweeping is more important for all members than it used to be. Jones has three solid sweepers on her team, but she herself can be a little weaker.

Anyway, congratulations to Rachel Homan and her team, and the next time I’ll talk about curling will be in the New Year.

One Response to “Roar of the Rings”

  1. My latest vacation … | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] usual, curling got in the way. It curtailed my mornings if the early draw was interesting and, worse yet, completely took over the […]

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