Calgary’s Pathway to the Podium Series highlights 10 local Canadian athletes on their backstories and hopes in Pyeongchang. Kevin Koe is one of them.
Tucked away in southwest Calgary near the Elbow River with the downtown core just a stone’s throw away, the Glencoe Club is home to some of the country’s best curlers.
The eight sheets of world-class ice are bustling, even during the middle of a workweek, and that’s where you’ll find Kevin Koe’s rink training for the upcoming Winter Games.
When you think of Koe, you think of a decorated curler. A three-time Brier winner. A two-time world champion. But there’s still space left in his jam-packed trophy cabinet for a final piece of hardware: an Olympic medal.
Born in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Koe moved to Calgary in 2011 and quickly made an impact on the sport in Alberta’s biggest city. In 2012, the skip became the first Calgarian in 18 years to win the provincial playdown for the right to don the blue and yellow at the Brier.
But for Koe, the reality was that he had yet to represent Canada on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
“It’s for me, personally, the one thing I haven’t won,” the 43-year-old said of the Olympics during a break in training at the Glencoe. “It would be nice to get there and top it off, for sure.”
It was in 2014 when Koe realized he needed to build an experienced squad for the next qualifying cycle. He added 2010 Olympic gold medal winners Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy at lead and third, respectively.
“I still think we’re two of the best players of our position and we’ve proven that year over year, we’ve been consistent,” Hebert explained of himself and long-time teammate Kennedy.
Starting to sink in a bit! Fam, Friends, Sponsors, Fans thanks so much! What a wild ride and we're thrilled to be repping Canada in #PyeongChang2018 #TeamCanada @TeamKevinKoe pic.twitter.com/ix22i6vomI
— Ben Hebert (@BennyHeebz) December 11, 2017
Hebert and Kennedy were instrumental in Vancouver as part of Kevin Martin’s team, a group that went through the round-robin with a perfect record and shot at a tournament-high of 85 percent.
Numbers aside, the duo formed a rink that captured Olympic glory on Canadian soil, in a high-pressure situation, which Kennedy believes will work to their favour in Pyeongchang.
“We’ve got one of the best skips in the world, same as Kevin Martin was back in the day,” the third said. “We still play hard for each other just like that other team did.”
The search for the final piece of the Koe puzzle ended in Ontario, where he snagged second Brent Laing, a long-serving member of the Glenn Howard foursome.
Laing was in Sochi four years ago when his wife, the accomplished Jennifer Jones, won women’s curling gold wearing the maple leaf and learned the rigours of the tournament through her eyes.
“It’s motivating, it’s exciting to watch, and it was cool to be at the Olympics and take in all of the other stuff, watch the curling and obviously watch her win, but I’ve got a feeling it’s better on the other side of the ropes,” he said with a smile.
If the rink’s performance at this past December’s Roar of the Rings is any indication, they are poised for a podium run in South Korea. The quad earned a record of 7-1 ahead of the playoffs at the Canadian qualifiers.
The Roar final was a nail-biter, going to 10 ends versus Mike McEwen. Koe sealed his team’s win with his final rock — a draw for a single and a thrilling 7-6 victory.
“We’ll take the same habits we’ve had, and hopefully things go our way,” Koe said.
The rink’s first draw at the Winter Games is Feb. 14 against Italy.
Canada has won 10 Olympic medals in curling — more than any other country.