Martin wins opening match at Olympic curling trials
WINNIPEG — Glenn Howard kept his sense of humour after losing his opening game at Sunday’s Canadian Curling Trials.
“I guess we’re not going undefeated,” Howard said with a wry grin after losing 8-6 to John Morris of Vernon, B.C.
The four-time world champion from Penetanguishene,Ont., wasn’t the only veteran skip to fall on the first day of the Trials, which will select Canada’s men’s and women’s teams for next year’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie team upset hometown favourite Jeff Stoughton 7-4.
Reigning Olympic champion Kevin Martin had a duel against Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen, but the Edmonton skip finished with a 5-3 victory.
Toronto’s John Epping was also victorious when he got by Calgary’s Kevin Koe 9-8.
“They’re probably going to be in it at the end of the week so that’s a big first win,” said Jacobs, 28, a runner-up at this year’s world championships.
His team led from the beginning and widened the gap 4-1 after a double takeout in the fifth end scored two.
Even though the two-time world and three-time Brier champion Stoughton is beloved by local fans, the knowledgeable crowd of 10,214 at MTS Centre cheered in appreciation of Jacobs’ tough shot.
“That extended the lead nicely and I think just kind of boosted everyone up a little bit,” Jacobs said.
Stoughton said his rink didn’t put enough pressure on Jacobs.
“But we didn’t do much wrong, so not great, not bad,” he said. “Course we’d rather win the first game than lose it, but we’re not going to hang our heads. You can’t in this event.”
Stoughton, 50, is playing in his fifth Trials and has said this is his last crack at trying to earn an elusive berth to an Olympics.
Martin was relieved to beat McEwen.
“Holy smokes, what a game,” Martin said. “Well, that’s the ice, right. It’s just perfect so every shot’s makeable.”
There’s a fine line between the competitors.
“One different shot and Mike wins, and then we don’t,” Martin said.
“That’s the way it’s going to be here all week. There’s going to be game’s just like that all week and it’s just going to be a real dog fight for the whole time.”
Three of Manitoba’s four rinks lost their first games, with Jennifer Jones the only victor after she put up a commanding 10-2 win over fellow Winnipegger Chelsea Carey.
Jones scored six in the sixth end.
“If we could score a six in every game, obviously I would be pretty excited,” Jones said. “It’s a long week but a short week.
“It’s a pretty short round robin from what we’re used to so you don’t want to get behind the eight ball early.”
It wasn’t the only lopsided game as Edmonton’s Val Sweeting defeated reigning Scotties champ Rachel Homan of Ottawa 10-3.
In closer matchups, Ontario’s Sherry Middaugh defeated Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton 5-3 and Renee Sonnenberg of Grande Prairie, Alta., beat Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin 8-6.
Carey, curling without third Kristy McDonald who was out with the flu, said she wasn’t letting the loss get to her and felt they played well, including alternate Breanne Meaken.
“We were just the wrong side of the inch,” said Carey. “My last rock picked in three and we were just off on everything after that.”
Jones may be one of the most successful curlers in Canada, but she has never managed to even come to winning an Olympic berth. She failed to make the playoffs in her previous two attempts in 2005 and 2009.
Homan said there were one too many picks in her loss.
“It’s always a little bit different from tournament to tournament. We’re just kind of learning the ice and getting a feel for it and next game we’re going to come out a lot stronger,” Homan said.
For Sweeting it was, well, sweet. The 26-year-old has only been in one Scotties and is far from being a favourite in the trials.
“Everyone likes a good underdog, so if that’s us, that’s totally fine with me,” she said. “We were a little fortunate in the beginning of that game ... I struggled early, I don’t think my team did.”
Even the veteran curlers were a little star struck with the appearance at the trials of actor Will Ferrell, in character as anchorman Ron Burgundy.
“We were fooling around with him and it was pretty cool,” Jones said.
Ferrell donned a kilt, entertained fans and did a little colour work with veteran TSN curling broadcaster Vic Rauter.
Martin was happy for the extra exposure.