The world-class quality of curling at the Winter Games made for enthralling final games.
The Australian men’s team took gold in a high-pressure game against China, winning 10-6; and Japan beat women’s world champions China to take gold in a decisive victory with a score of 8-5.
The game was close all the way, with some great shots and a few devastating mistakes.
Australia made two points on the first end, China only one on the second and then Australia stole one on the third to take the game into the fourth end, tied 2-2.
Going into the sixth end it was tied again 3-3 and then Australia scored a three but on the seventh Australia, in an attempt at a heavy takeout, clipped a guard and left the way open for China to score three, to tie the score again 6-6.
China were forced to accept one in the eighth end and then Australia stole the finish with one in the ninth and two in 10th ends.
To win the final end Australia remained focused on removing guards and a miss by China put an end to the game.
China are an Olympic-level team that has played successfully at major international tournaments, but it was the Australian team’s veteran savvy that won the day. Australian skip Hugh Millikin, 53, said age had its advantages.
“It helps to have been in difficult situations before, especially when you give up a couple of points like we gave up the three in the seventh.
“A lot of times that really deflates you and then you start making dumb mistakes”, Millikin said.
“We just kept to it and played the strategy out, so experience makes a big difference in curling.”
In the men’s battle for bronze, Japan asserted dominance over Korea scoring a four in the third end and stealing a one in the eighth, resulting in a final score of 10-7 to Japan. China took the silver.
In the women’s final, China put the first points on the board and were leading 3-1 going into the fourth end, but Japan had the last stone advantage and scored an impressive three, a turning point that put them ahead for the first time. China were never able to catch up, going into the final 10th end 8-5.
It came down to the wire with China having to score three to tie and force an extra end.
China were in with a chance with two stones inside the rings, but Japan’s skip executed a difficult in-turn takeout and killed China’s stone, running them out of rocks, making China’s last stone advantage attempt pointless, and forcing the world champions to concede the game to Japan.
It was always going to be a huge battle between these two world-class teams: Japan, national champion and 2010 Olympic qualifier; and China, women’s world champions. Japanese skip Moe Meguro had a particularly strong game and said they were happy to beat China.
“We were relaxed because we were challengers against world champions, we couldn’t be nervous,” she said. “We didn’t think about winning until the end of the game to avoid the pressure.”
China national coach Dan Rafael said Japan always gave them a good game.
“Today we just didn’t come to the play. I know them better than that,” he said of China’s women curlers.
Korea pushed New Zealand out for the women’s bronze, with a score of 12-7 to Korea.
Scores were fairly even in the first half of the game and tied 4-4 going into the fifth end. Korea stole a three and New Zealand were never able to get on top again, despite New Zealand putting an impressive four points on the board in the eighth end. China took silver.
Dan Rafael said China’s men’s team was a new lineup and it was the first time skip Liu Rui had been at the helm for a full tournament and that was a factor in its loss.
The Winter Games curling event was a great event, ideal for giving players exposure a tournament and perfect timing for their training schedule, Rafael said.
Meanwhile, former Invercargill native Nat Anglem dominated the Winter Triathlon on Saturday morning, putting a kilometre between himself and his nearest competitor.
The winter triathlon was a demonstration sport at the Winter Games and consists of a 7km run followed by a 12km mountainbike ride and 10km cross-country ski, all on hard-packed snow.
Behind Anglem in the men’s race were Ben Koons, of Wanaka, and Andrew Pohl, of Dunedin, third.
In the women’s race first-timer Laetitia Roux, of France, decided to rent some gear and give it a go. She took first place and is now considering entering the World Winter Triathlon Championships. Andrea Fancy, of Wellington, was second and Christchurch’s Yvonne Pfluger was third.
Anglem said he was surprised he was so far ahead of the rest of the field but had felt comfortable and held on for an easy win.
It was the country’s top cross- country skiers who took the top places in near-perfect conditions at Snow Farm.
Anglem is a cross-country skiing specialist and has the 2010 Winter Olympics in his sights.
“I had a great time out there today. It’s a fantastic course and an all-round perfect day for it. It’s such a fun event. But it is heavily tipped in skiers’ favour,” he said.
Triathlon New Zealand chief executive Dave Beech was at Snow Farm to watch the winter version of his sport for the first time and said he thought it was an exciting and dynamic sport.
“I think this is a great sport. It really does look tough. Not often do you see top competitors as these cramping up, and there was more than one out there looking for attention. If we can get sufficient interest in the sport then I think it can go places,” Beech said.
The former captain of the Scottish women’s curling team is to sue the national coach for defamation.
Gail Munro has accused Derek Brown of damaging her reputation with comments he allegedly made about her at the world championships in Canada last year.
The defamation claim, which Mr Brown denies, is understood to relate to comments he made during the tournament last March.
The Court of Session action follows the publication of an independent report that reveals a catalogue of blunders and angry confrontations between team members.
The £15,000 independent inquiry, by solicitor Michael Nicholson, was ordered by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) after a row among team members saw Scotland field three players instead of four.
Rhona Martin, who led a national women’s curling team to Olympic gold in 2002, attended as a coach working with Mr Brown. But the report revealed players and coaching squad had not met beforehand as Ms Martin was “unable to arrange a time that suited everyone”.
It also stated that Karen Addison, a member of the team, was reduced to tears following an exchange with Ms Munro.
Her team-mate Lyndsay Wilson, meanwhile, felt she had been “ridiculed” after Brown re-ran footage of her falling on the ice in front of her laughing team-mates.
After losing eight of nine matches played, Brown allegedly dropped Munro from the team. Munro’s lawyer confirmed a defamation action had begun against Brown, who declined to comment.
George Parkes was remembered yesterday by a longtime friend and former curling teammate as “a fine fellow, a great guy” and “a leader who, beginning in the 1960s, started a tradition of outstanding skips at St. Thomas Curling Club.”
“When George was skip he was really in charge, and we all followed,” said Jim Waite, who played lead on Parkes-skipped rinks that went to back-to-back Ontario championships in 1966 and ’67.
“He took us to a new level — the provincial championship level.”
Parkes died Thursday of pneumonia while he and Betty, his wife of 61 years, were visiting their son Ernie and daughter-in-law Kathleen in Yarmouth, N.S. He was 83.
Waite, now the coach of the Canadian women’s curling team, was among the young skips who prospered from Parkes’ mentoring, part of a group that included Don Gilbert, Jim Lyle and Randy Baker.
“George made more difficult shots than any skip I can remember at that time,” Waite said. “He took some young guys, and he wasn’t that old himself, and he just took us to a higher level.
“He played like he’d been there before — with confidence. That, of course, gave us confidence as well.”
Parkes and his rink of Waite, Gilbert and Al Zikman finished second at the 1966 provincials and third the following year.
A heart-breaker happened in ’66 in Brampton.
“Joe Gurowka (of Dixie Curling Club) made a shot with his last rock that he didn’t call,” Waite said through a pained tone of the 12th-end shot that robbed the St. Thomas crew of the championship and a trip to the Brier national final.
Parkes retired as a player prior to the ’68 season and — with Gilbert as skip and Dick Ronald as a newcomer to the rink, the St. Thomas crew won the provincial crown.
Parkes stepped right out of the University of Western Ontario in 1948 and right into the family business — Ernie Parkes Wholesale, founded by his father — which he later operated with his brother Bill in St. Thomas and Woodstock as Elgin-Parkes.
Curling was in the Parkes genes. In 1939, Ernie Parkes was a member of Bert Hall’s Kitchener rink that won the McDonald Brier national men’s championship. The rink also made the Brier in 1938 and ’40.
George Parkes remained active in curling after his playing days were done. He was chairperson of the organizing committee for the St. Thomas-London hosting of the MacDonald Brier in 1974 at Treasure Island Gardens and in 1981 served on the committee that put on the Air Canada Silver Broom world men’s championship at Thompson arena.
He was also a former president of the Ontario Curling Association and founding member of the Woodstock Curling Club.
Indeed, Parkes was a sportsman through and through and, along with curling, his passion extended deep into golf.
He was at the forefront of Oxford Golf and Country Club’s move from Woodstock’s southwest corner to the Craigowan Farm north of the city in the mid-1950s. Parkes served as club president in 1960-61 and was no slouch as a golfer, a six-handicapper at one point.
Nipigon, ON — Its official, Nipigon Ontario now holds the Guiness Book of World’s Records for the longest curling marathon. The record attempt was made earlier this year, as curlers played for a record setting 50 hours and three minutes.
The curlers have been waiting on pins and needles for the official blessing of 50 continuous hours of curling undertaken last March.
Nipigon’s Mayor Richard Harvey shares, “Another fine example of that proud Nipigon Spirit, rising above the challenges that we have been facing, and setting ourselves apart. Congratulations are in order for the curlers and the volunteers who earned this World Record together.”
Steve Mangoff, who organized the event’s documentation, shared the good news from the Guinness Book of World Records with the teams this morning, “The longest curling marathon is 50 hr 3 min and was set by a group of 10 players from The Nipigon Curling Club in Nipigon, Ontario, Canada on 12-15 March 2009.”
The Nipigon Curling Club are looking forward to the 2009-2010 season with optimism, and hope their achievements as well as plans to renovate facilities will renew interest in its programs and boost participation in upcoming bonspiels.
The curlers are expected to celebrate their achievement at the Nipigon Centennial Fall Fishing Festival this coming weekend. They are; Jonah Dupuis, Mitch Shallow, Loretta Mangoff, Brenton Button, Chris Wrigley, Jeff Zechner, Ian Brennen, Brie-Ann Button, DJ Ronaldson and Chris Giguire.
Ever since Nicole Joraanstad graduated from Kentridge High in 1999 and moved to Madison, Wis., she hasn’t had many reasons to return to the Northwest.
She picked the University of Wisconsin to study business, her parents – Gary and Debra – moved to Mississippi then Ohio, and Joraanstad spends her spare time curling.
But in February she earned a return trip to the area when her team won the curling national championship for the fourth year in a row.
This time the national championship came with a spot in next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., making her – and her team – the first athletes from the United States to qualify for the games.
Most of the American athletes won’t officially be named until January. The games are Feb. 12-28.
“It’s nice to qualify so early,” said Joraanstad, a 29-year-old corporate recruiter for TDS Telecom. “It gives us a chance to plan out everything without being rushed.”
Joraanstad started curling because of her dad, Gary, who played out of Seattle’s Granite Curling Club. He played on some good teams that contended for national championships in the 1980s – before curling was an Olympic event.
When Joraanstad turned 15 she started curling, and in 1996 her team advanced to junior nationals and finished eighth.
“I was pretty much hooked after that,” Joraanstad said.
She quit the school softball, basketball and track teams to focus on curling, and it paid off.
Her teams returned to junior nationals the next five years, winning the title in 2000 and 2001 after she moved to Madison.
“Granite is a great club but I needed to go some place where there were more clubs and more curlers,” Joraanstad said.
Curling became an Olympic sport at the 1998 games in Nagano. Still a junior at Kentridge at the time, Joraanstad envisioned a day when she would be competing for a gold medal.
By the 2002 Olympics she was already in contention to qualify. Her team finished fourth in qualifying. Only one team advances to the games.
It was qualifying for the 2006 games that proved to be one of the key moments in her career.
Her team, along with Debbie McCormick’s Wisconsin team, were the favorites, but both teams were upset.
The next summer, McCormick and Joraanstad decided to combine forces to form a team that wouldn’t be upset the next time around. Joraanstad joined McCormick’s team, which also includes Tracy Sachtjen of Wisconsin and Allison Pottinger and Natalie Nicholson of Minnesota.
The team has dominated women’s curling in the United States ever since.
When this year’s national championships came around, Joraanstad’s new team was ready. There would be no upsets.
As the team’s second – meaning she throws the third and fourth stones and sweeps for everybody else – Joraanstad helped her team go undefeated.
Joraanstad and her teammates usually take the summer off, but not this year.
Three weekends a month Joraanstad makes the 21/2-hour drive from Madison to Green Bay to practice with her team. The team will also take a training trip to Switzerland.
“This is a new model for us, but I think it will work well,” Joraanstad said. “We are keeping our skills honed so we are starting off stronger next season.”
Perhaps that will translate into a spot on the medals podium when she returns to the area, where she says she still has lots of friends and extended family.
The team will have to be at the top of its game in Vancouver. As dominant as it has been in the United States, it has yet to win a world championship.
The team finished ninth in March at the World Championships in Korea. Its best finish came in 2006 in Alberta (second), but it was fourth in 2007 and seventh in ’08.
The U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in women’s curling.
Joraanstad expects that to change in Vancouver: “We expect to win gold.”
Deneen makes team
Cle Elum moguls mogul Patrick Deneen made the U.S. freestyle team earlier this month. He’s the defending world champion in the moguls and one of the leading candidates from Washington to win a medal at February’s Winter Olympics.