SASKATOON — Brad Jacobs wrapped up his post-game interviews, said “thanks” and was walking over to join his teammates when he added one last thought.
“Pretty cool,” the 36-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., said, grinning. “Who gets to do once-in-a-lifetime things over and over again, eh?”
Team Jacobs sure does, sports fans. They’re one win away from earning the chance to represent Canada on the Olympic stage, yet again.
On Saturday at SaskTel Centre, the 2014 Olympic gold medallist led his team to an absolute thrashing of Kevin Koe's crew in the semifinal of Canada’s Olympic curling trials, an 8-3 win they led from start to finish, a game that ended after just six ends.
“Big win,” Jacobs said, and it was in every sense.
The stage is now set for the Battle of the Brads, with the winner representing Canada in Beijing in February. On Sunday night, Jacobs, his Harnden cousins — E.J. (the second) and Ryan (the lead) — and third Marc Kennedy will play Brad Gushue and his Newfoundland rink, the 2006 Olympic champions, for that coveted 2022 Olympic berth.
“It should be a heck of a game,” Jacobs said. “Really looking forward to it.”
A heck of a game is also in line on the women’s side after the legend that is Jennifer Jones punched her ticket to the final with an 8-3 win over Krista McCarville’s crew from Thunder Bay, Ont., in Saturday night’s semifinal.
When it was over, Jones raised her broom in the air and gave her teammates some solid high-fives while Tina Turner’s “The Best” played over the arena’s speakers. The 2014 Olympic gold medallist was beaming when it was all over.
“These are the moments that you play for, the adrenaline rush, the rollercoaster ride — it’s what makes sport so much fun to train for and to play, that you never know what’s going to happen on any given day and you just try to find your limits and how far you can push it,” Jones said. “And for our team, I’m so proud of the girls and to be in the final tomorrow is our first goal, and now we just want to go out and play well tomorrow.”
The 46-year-old skip, along with third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman, lead Dawn McEwan and fifth Lisa Weagle, will be up against fellow Manitoba club Team Tracy Fleury that went undefeated through round-robin play.
The key is simple if you ask Jones: “Just make all our shots, no problem,” she said, smiling.
The women’s final is set for 11 a.m. local time, while the men play at 7 p.m.
The way Jacobs earned his way to Sunday’s trials final was absolutely emphatic, highlighted by “two beauties” from the skip, as Kennedy assessed it.
Beauty No. 1 came in the third end, when Jacobs made the biggest shot of these Olympic trials on his last rock, taking out two of Koe’s to stick an emphatic four. The skipper yelled “Yeah!” and pumped his broom in the air.
In the fifth, again with the hammer, Jacobs scored another four, navigating past a guard for a takeout to bring him to 8-1 at the break. After that one, Jacobs barely smiled and got a couple fist-pumps. It was clinical stuff.
“That pretty much put it away,” Kennedy said.
Koe stared at the ice during the break, down 8-1.
“I mean, it sucks, right,” the skip said when it was all over. Koe represented Canada at the last Olympics.
“What can you say?” he said. “I thought we were ready to play.”
The team’s lead, Ben Hebert, said they brought their “C Game.” Hebert added that whiskey would be consumed tonight.
“That’s the best I’ve seen Brad Jacobs’ team in a couple years,” said Team Koe second, John Morris.
Jacobs agrees on that point.
“They’re playing so well in front of me that it really is making my job seem quite easy and simple,” he said. “Really, this is the best team performance that I can remember that we’ve put together to this point.”
“We haven’t been too uptight, we’ve been relaxed and havin’ fun and really we’ve been following Brad’s lead,” Kennedy added. “Brad’s been fantastic. And I think when you feel like your skip’s gonna make everything, it allows everybody to be a little bit more relaxed and that’s kinda been the story of the week.”
E.J. Harnden echoed that thought.
“Brad’s pretty much been perfect and then it becomes about wanting to be somewhere close to him,” he said, laughing. “He’s made some phenomenal shots all week long. I think what’s been really impressive is just his composure and confidence and support for all of us. He’s out there making everything and he’s giving all of us what we need to be at our very best, too.”
Jacobs and the Harndens won Olympic gold in 2014, while Kennedy won it in 2010 alongside Kevin Martin. The 2022 Olympics would be Kennedy’s third trip – he competed in 2018 alongside Team Koe. For all of them to earn another shot at another Olympic gold, they have to get past Team Gushue.
“I think we all feel very confident heading into tomorrow’s final,” Jacobs said. “What’s it gonna take to beat those guys? It’s gonna take a near-perfect performance.”