Eight Ends: Winter Olympics curling picture taking shape

The 2015 Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge winners discuss what it takes to stay on top, and why being mentally tough is a huge part of the sport at the elite level.

Silvana Tirinzoni was overdue to represent Switzerland again on the global stage and will now get the opportunity to compete at the largest sporting event of them all.

Tirinzoni topped Alina Paetz and Binia Feltscher in convincing fashion during the triple round-robin Swiss Olympic Trials in Biel, Switzerland, and will represent the country at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Since Tirinzoni ran the table finishing with a 6-0 record Friday, no playoff round was required and her team automatically clinched the spot.

While Feltscher and Paetz are both two-time world champions, Tirinzoni has ranked consistently among the best in the business within the past few years and is currently fourth on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit. Tirinzoni has also won something the other two haven’t: a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title. Her team captured the inaugural Tour Challenge championship in 2015 and reached two finals last season alone while neither Paetz nor Feltscher’s squads have played in a single Grand Slam final.

Should Tirinzoni convert her tour success into a solid Olympic run, her team will be a legit medal contender.

Now, if you’re thinking it’s a little early for trials, it’s actually Canada that has them relatively late by comparison. There are 114 days (only?) until the Winter Olympics and the field is just about set for the men’s and women’s curling tournaments.

Here’s how it looks so far:

Winter Olympics men’s teams

Country Skip/Trial Dates
Canada Dec. 2-10
Great Britain Kyle Smith
Japan Yusuke Morozumi
Norway Thomas Ulsrud*
South Korea Chang-Min Kim
Sweden Niklas Edin
Switzerland Peter de Cruz
USA Nov. 11-18
TBD Dec. 5-10
TBD Dec. 5-10

* – Pending Ulsrud qualifies for the playoffs at the European Championships, which he should.

Winter Olympics women’s teams

Country Skip/Trial Dates
Canada Dec. 2-10
Great Britain Eve Muirhead
Japan Satsuki Fujisawa
Russia Anna Sidorova
South Korea EunJung Kim
Sweden Anna Hasselborg
Switzerland Silvana Tirinzoni
USA Nov. 11-18
TBD Dec. 5-10
TBD Dec. 5-10

As you can see, the U.S. and Canada are only ones left to hold national trials with the latter also squeezing in pre-trials before then. Some countries held their trials much earlier (e.g., Japan’s was in September, South Korea’s was in April) while others like Great Britain and Sweden outright picked their teams over the summer.

Switzerland’s approach was a little from column A and a little from column B by holding trials on the women’s side and selecting Team de Cruz for its men’s spot. It makes total sense as Team de Cruz is far and away the top men’s crew in their country and earned bronze at the worlds last season while the women’s side features a trio of teams all worthy of being in the mix.

Those TBD places will be determined at an Olympic qualifying event held Dec. 5-10 in Plzen, Czech Republic, which will be the last chance for countries like China, Finland, Germany, etc., to slip in.


1st End: Back-to-back for Carruthers in Portage

Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers highlights our tour roundup successfully defending the Canad Inns Men’s Classic title in Portage la Prairie, Man.

Carruthers defeated Glenn Howard of Tiny, Ont., 6-1 in Monday’s final.

After settling for a single in the second, Carruthers stole one in the third for a 2-0 lead. Howard was held to just a point in the fourth, Carruthers counted four in the fifth to put the game out of hand and handshakes came out after a blank in six.

Both teams qualified A side through the triple knockout preliminary round. Carruthers beat John Shuster 8-2 in the quarterfinals and Kevin Koe 6-1 in the semifinals while Howard topped Yusuke Morozumi 6-4 and Mike McEwen 8-6.

Carruthers is flanked by third Braeden Moskowy, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson. Glenn’s son Scott Howard moved up from lead to third to fill in for Richard Hart, who has yet to play this season. Fraser Reid subbed at lead.


2nd End: Bohn knows Atkins Curling Supplies Classic

Sticking in Manitoba, David Bohn scored a single in the eighth to edge Jordan Smith 4-3 for the Atkins Curling Supplies Classic men’s title Monday in Winnipeg.

Bohn plays with third Jordan Richter, second Tyler Forrest and lead Bryce J. McEwen. Smith’s team features third Nolan Bradshaw, second Kyle McCannell and lead Justin Twiss.

Both teams finished with 5-1 records with Bohn’s only defeat coming against Smith 10-4 during the A qualifier of the triple knockout.

Meanwhile, Darcy Robertson topped Barb Spencer 5-3 in the women’s final.

After back-to-back blanks to start, Robertson finally got on the scoreboard with a deuce in three and followed that up with a steal in four to lead 3-0. The teams switched singles in five and six before Spencer took two in the seventh to close within one. Robertson held the hammer coming home though and added another point.

Robertson finished the tournament undefeated at 6-0 while handing Spencer (5-1) her lone loss.

Team Robertson also includes third Karen Klein, second Vanessa Foster and lead Theresa Cannon. Spencer is supported by third Katie Spencer, second Holly Spencer and lead Allyson Spencer.


3rd End: Tuck, Froud take Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel

Wayne Tuck captured the Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel in Stroud, Ont., after stealing two in the extra end to edge Brandon Tippin 6-4 during Sunday’s final.

The Brantford, Ont., team of Tuck, third Chad Allen, second Kurt Armstrong and lead Matt Pretty finished with an undefeated 7-0 record.

Tuck, who finished runner-up at the Ontario Tankard last season, also stole one in the third to take a 2-0 lead. The teams alternated singles in four and five as Tuck maintained the two-point advantage. Tippin, from Owen Sound, Ont., tied it with a deuce in six and pulled ahead 3-2 with a single in seven. Tuck tied it in the eighth to force the extra.

Meanwhile, Susan Froud defeated Ashley Waye 6-3 in the women’s final. Froud jumped out with steals swiping two in the first and one in the second to lead 3-0. Waye, from Toronto, settled for a single in three and stole a point in four to close within one. The teams split singles in five and six and Froud tacked on two more points in the seventh.

The Waterloo, Ont., team of Froud, third Lauren Horton, second Margot Flemming and lead Megan Arnold dropped their first couple round-robin games before making a 180-degree turn and winning five straight en route to the title.


4th End: Elsewhere on tour

– EunJung Kim of South Korea captured the Paf Masters in Finland. Kim defeated Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink 7-5 in Sunday’s final.

– Shannon Birchard and Jason Gunnlaugson went 6-0 to capture the Pacific Northwest Mixed Doubles Invitational. The Winnipeg duo scored two in the eighth to defeat American pair Jamie Sinclair and Korey Dropkin 6-5 in Sunday’s final.

– Edmonton’s Kevin Park stole in the extra end to clip local favourite Aaron Sluchinski 4-3 in Sunday’s final at the McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic in Airdrie, Alta.


5th End: Silver lining for Canada at world mixed championship

Canada captured its first medal, and I mean ever, at the world mixed curling championship Saturday.

The Thunder Bay, Ont., crew of skip Trevor Bonot, third Jackie McCormick, second Kory Carr and lead Megan Carr earned silver at the event in Champery, Switzerland.

Grant Hardie skipped Scotland to the gold medal although Bonot took them to the distance stealing one in the eighth to force an extra end. Hardie, who missed the draw in the eighth, connected with his last in OT making a double takeout to score three and win 8-5.

Czech Republic also earned its first medal at the event scoring two in the seventh and stealing three in the eighth to complete the 7-6 comeback win over Norway in the bronze match.

The world mixed curling championship just started in 2015 and Canada was ousted in the quarterfinals both times previously.


6th End: Coming up on tour

The women’s division now takes over Portage la Prairie this weekend for the Canad Inns Women’s Classic. Jennifer Jones, Eve Muirhead, Anna Hasselborg and Silvana Tirinzoni are among those who will be in action.

Switzerland now hosts the top men’s teams for the Curling Masters Champery. The ARENA Challenge de Curling de Gatineau is on in Quebec featuring the likes of John Epping, Peter de Cruz, Kyle Smith and others.

Also on tap are the Kamloops Crown of Curling in B.C., the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta and the Lady Monctonian Invitational Spiel in New Brunswick.


7th End: One week away from the Masters

At this time next week, we’ll be gearing up for the Masters (Oct. 24-29) in Lloydminster, Sask.

Next week’s edition of Eight Ends will give you the full rundown of what you need to know. For now here are links to the draw and TV schedules to keep you busy plotting match-ups.

Tickets are available for the Masters. Visit Lloydgsoc.goigniter.com or call 306-825-5161 to purchase your tickets today.


8th End: Invites in the mail for Boost National

We’re also two weeks away from being two weeks away to the Boost National running Nov. 14-19 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Invites have been sent out to the teams, keep it here soon for a full lineup announcement (and for those who haven’t RSVP’d yet, you might want to do that now).

Tickets are available at Essarcentre.ca or calling 1-866-775-9422.