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Olympic Curling Preview

2014 February 10
by WayneGarman

The curling competition for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is shaping up to be a very interesting event.

On the women’s side, the favorites for medals include 2013 World Champion Eve Muirhead of Scotland, the defending 2010 gold medal rink from Sweden, and 4 time world champion Jennifer Jones of Canada.  Each of these rinks is experienced at top level competition, and I would be surprised if all of them did not make the playoffs.

Erica Brown’s US rink also has a chance to be a “dark horse” for a medal contender.  Brown, together with third Debbie McCormick, bring extensive international curling experience.   Since their rink formed a couple of years ago, they seem to have jelled, winning the US women’s championship in 2013.  They were by far the best rink in the US Olympic play downs.  If they can keep the momentum, it should be fun to follow their progress.

The men’s side seems harder to predict.   The rink from Norway, together with their loud pants, looks to be a strong contender.  The UK rink from Scotland, features former world champion David Murdoch teamed up with another Scottish champion rink of Tom Brewster.   And you cannot count out the 2013 World Champions from Sweden.

Canada’s rep will be the Brad Jacob’s foursome from Sault Ste. Marie, ON.   This rink is the new face of curling in Canada.  They are all young, with 3 members in their 20s.  They all look like athletes, with their bulging biceps obviously a product of extensive gym work.  They won the 2013 Canadian Brier, and went undefeated at the Olympic trials, knocking off some of the established older power rinks of Howard, Martin & Stoughton.  They employ an aggressive style, and are not afraid to go after high reward shots.  They are exciting to watch, and should medal if they keep up their momentum.

The US men’s rink of John Shuster had a longer road to qualify for the Olympics.  They won the US Olympic Trials in November with a couple of close games with former champion Pete Fenson.  Since the US has done so poorly in recent world championships, they had to play in a qualifying bonspiel in Germany in December.  They were able to get one of the two Olympic spots by knocking off the Czech Republic in a close game.

Shuster’s rink is a hard one to predict.  At times, they are very sharp, making some incredible shots.  At other times, even during the same game, they can miss easy shots – almost like us mortals!!  If they get hot during the Olympics, they could surprise.  Hopefully, it will not be a repeat of the 2010 Olympics, where Shuster’s team fell apart, and there were rumors of dissension in the ranks.

My fearless picks for gold medals:

  • Women:  Eve Muirhead, Scotland
  • Men: Brad Jacobs, Canada

The US television coverage will be excellent for these Olympics.  NBC provides the Olympic coverage this year, and their stations NBC Sports, MSNBC, CNBC and the USA Network will provide over 40 hours of curling coverage, running Feb. 10 through Feb. 21.  There will be live coverage, as well as some tape delayed. The finals for both men’s and women’s will be aired live.  Keep in mind the Sochi is 9 hours ahead of Austin, so we may be watching it live in the wee hours or fire up your DVR.

As an anecdote, for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, curling became something of a cult sport for viewership.   It has been written that the curling coverage had the highest viewer totals of any of the Olympic sports in 2010.  Hopefully, NBC is aware of this and will give us curling addicts lots of great coverage.  I also hope they stop the annoying habit of commercial breaks in the midst of an end, as was their habit during the Olympic Trial coverage.

Good curling!!!

Wayne Garman!