Kennedy, Hebert bring Olympic success to Kevin Koe’s curling team

Team Koe lead Ben Hebert, left to right, third Marc Kennedy, skip Kevin Koe and second Brent Laing celebrate their win over Team McEwen during the men's final at the 2017 Roar of the Rings Olympic Curling Trials. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

CALGARY — An ace in Kevin Koe’s pocket as his curling team prepares for the Winter Olympics is having a pair of teammates who have been there, won gold.

Third Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert were Kevin Martin’s front end at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., where they and third John Morris went 11-0 en route to the top of the podium.

Koe, Kennedy, second Brent Laing and Hebert will attempt to extend the country’s run of men’s curling gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

The Brad Jacobs team out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., was victorious in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Koe intends to pick the brains of his third and lead on how to successfully navigate what is a sporting event like no other.

It’s been a whirlwind for the Calgary-based Koe team since they beat Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen to win the Roar of the Rings trials Dec. 10 in Ottawa.

"We haven’t had really much of a chance to talk as a team since we won," Koe said Wednesday at the Glencoe Club.

"But you know experience is usually pretty good, especially when they won in the past. I think it can only help.

"I’m sure we’ll sit down in the New Year and chat about their past experience at the Olympics. What went well and what didn’t and what we can maybe use going forward to help us."

One aspect Hebert expects to be different is the quality of the field.

"It’s a heck of a lot tougher to win now than it was the last time I went in 2010," Hebert said.

"The semifinal and final were tougher games, but we had games during the round robin where we were running guys out of the building in five ends.

"We don’t expect that this time. These world teams have put a lot of work in, a lot of time, we’ve played them all on the tour and they’re very, very good teams. We’re going to have to go there and play a really good week."

Koe and Hebert live and work in Calgary, while Kennedy is from St. Albert, Alta., and Laing is from Ontario.

Kennedy, Laing and Hebert have each won three men’s world championships in their careers and Koe two. They claimed their one world title as a foursome in 2016.

They don’t lack big-game experience, even if Koe and Laing are going to a Winter Games for the first time.

"From playing in those other events, it just kind of gives us some experience," Hebert said. "It would have been a different story I think going in if we hadn’t been in world championships or if I hadn’t been in the Olympics before.

"I think the things that go along with the Olympics, the outside stuff, the opening ceremonies, staying in the village and meeting all the other athletes, that stuff’s great.

"Once you get to the field of play and once we actually get into the action, it’s just going to be an event we need to play great at."

Koe and company will play Jan. 11-14 in the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling in London, Ont., and Jan. 16-21 in the World Curling Tour’s Meridian Canadian Open in Camrose, Alta.

Koe and Rachel Homan’s team from Ottawa will then head to Karuizawa, Japan, for a pre-Olympic camp.

Canada has high expectations of its hockey and curling teams at Winter Olympics because of past successes.

"You always want to be the favourite," Hebert stated. "If you’re the favourite, that means if you go play good, you win.

"We’re not going there to win silver or bronze. If we do win an Olympic medal, we’re going to be happy regardless, but obviously we’re going there with expectations of winning gold."

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