Jacobs bringing gold momentum into National

Canada’s golden rink (from L-R): Caleb Flaxey, Ryan Harnden, E.J. Harnden, Ryan Fry and Brad Jacobs in Sochi. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Now that Brad Jacobs’s rink has conquered the curling world with a victory in the Winter Olympics, the team from Sault Ste. Marie is hoping to cash in on its success by doing something that is virtually impossible in Canada — playing the sport as a full-time career.

“Absolutely, we would love nothing more. That’s the goal,” Jacobs told Sportsnet. “When you start to gain a little bit of success in curling, you want to see how far you can take it and see if it’s possible to make it a full-time career. It doesn’t come without corporate sponsorship and maintaining a high-level standard of play and being near the top all the time.”

In some countries that are trying to grow the game, a select team is paid strictly to curl. In Canada, however, the sport is still dominated by individuals who play part-time because there isn’t enough guaranteed income. Jacobs has taken a leave of absence from his job as an accounts manager to try to make that transition.

“Because we’re going to try to pursue curling full-time and with the demands that come with a gold medal, it really wouldn’t be fair to my employer,” he said. “I think at the pace I was going I may have burned out. You may have to talk to each individual curler separately on that one.”

“Working and curling and having a family and all that stuff, it’s difficult. It’s not easy,” Jacobs added. “Everyone (who plays the sport at an elite level in Canada) does it and everyone handles that stuff differently. It’s a sacrifice you make for coming out on the (World Curling Tour) and wanting to possibly be the best team in the world. It’s a sacrifice everyone takes.”

Jacobs’s team, which includes lead Ryan Harnden, second E.J. Harnden and vice-skip Ryan Fry, wouldn’t mind aligning with a company that promotes physical fitness, which is a daily part of the champion Soo curlers.

“Since curling has been introduced into the Olympics (as a full-medal sport in 1998), everyone who curls has been trying to get into better shape and be as physically fit as they can,” Jacobs said. “I definitely think that’s the way curling is going. It’s the way curling needs to go at this point if we want to attract more youthful fans into the sport and really attract youth in general. We’re athletes first, curlers second.”

The Jacobs foursome will be playing in Fort McMurray, Alberta this week in the $100,000 Syncrude National, the third of the four 2013-14 Grand Slam of Curling events. It begins Wednesday at MacDonald Island Park and runs through to Sunday.

Jacobs said he and his teammates are keen to win the National.

“Even though we won a gold medal, we’re a very hungry team,” Jacobs said. “Every event we play in we want to win. That’s just a guarantee. We’re looking forward to getting out and playing again. It will be a lot of fun and a different challenge. This will be our first Grand Slam of the season as well. That’s going to be awesome to play in the Grand Slams again.”

Jacobs’s team has yet to win a Slam event. The rink’s best finish so far is playing in the final of the 2012 Canadian Open, losing 3-1 to Glenn Howard’s team from Coldwater, Ontario.

“When you come up against the teams you play all the time, everyone wants to beat each other so badly no matter what’s on the line,” Jacobs said. “We’re to the point now where we can block the prize out and you’re just going out there and playing. We love to compete against the top teams and try to bring our best game to the ice each and every time.

“It would be awesome to win a Grand Slam event. The Grand Slam events are the toughest to win, in my opinion. You’ve got your top 18 teams in the world. They are definitely the toughest events to win. To win one of those would mean a lot to us.”

Jacobs and his teammates will be bringing their medals with them going forward in the next month or two. It allows fans to literally feel what the team has accomplished.

The lineup for the National is scheduled to include: defending champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg; 2014 Brier winner Kevin Koe of Calgary; Howard; Edmonton’s Kevin Martin; Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen; St. John’s Brad Gushue; Toronto’s Travis Fanset; Saskatoon’s Steve Laycock; Halifax’s Mark Dacey; Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher; and Regina’s Brock Virtue. The field will also feature international squads that include Sweden’s Niklas Edin and Oskar Eriksson; Switzerland’s Sven Michel and Pascal Hess; Japan’s Yusuke Morozumi; and Korea’s Soo-Hyuk Kim.

Howard won the Masters of Curling, the first of the four GSOC events, in Abbotsford in November, followed by Koe winning the second leg, the Canadian Open, in Medicine Hat later in the month.

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