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Monday, 1 October 2018

#PowerRankings W6

#BetweenTheSheets: Historic Curling Weekend
Welcome October, Women's Her-story Month


What a raise double runback for a big September score the final weekend of the month turned out to be. History was made across sheets of ice around the world with a full house of world curling tour events. In fact, this past weekend was the busiest weekend of the season thus far.

We saw historic results with #TeamUpset winners and writing a new chapter in the record books. How fitting to say goodbye to September and hello to October, also known as Women's History Month, with the inaugural crowning of a new #gsoc Queen of the Ice.

Pop the champagne. Blow up the balloons. Cut the cake. Time to celebrate some historic firsts.

Without question the biggest story of the weekend was FINALLY seeing female teams compete at the Elite 10 grand slam event. After the first four iterations of this event were men-only, it took the milestone five-year anniversary to break the glass ceiling and allow an equal hack in the ice for female competition. The Elite 10 in Chatham, ON. truly created a #HERstory moment in curling. In a sport where equality on the ice seems to be more prominent than many other sports, the fact we entered the 2018/19 season with a Grand Slam of Curling event still not featuring women was a huge disappointment. Are we finally at a point of equality across the sheets? No, as we see with tour events, prize money distribution and a few other issues (athlete calendar's perhaps?!). But it sure felt nice to see us take a slide in the right direction and, really, correct a wrong that never should have been in the first place. Lets remember, when the Elite 10 started in 2015 every other current slam was offering a men's and women's field!

But the competition itself was not the only historical moment. The eventual champions, Sweden's Team Hasselborg, took the story one bit further in creating a #HERstory moment of their own. After 5 SF finishes and 2 runner-up finishes in the past two years of #gsoc competition, Hasselborg would finally put all the pieces together and run the gauntlet in claiming her maiden slam title. The 2018 Olympic champions seem to have no post-Olympic hangover this season, reaching the Curling World Cup leg one final (losing to Team Homan) and winning the Elite 10 this weekend to kick-off their 2018/19 campaign. Many pundits have criticized Hasselborg in the past for being unable to "win the big ones" such as a grand slam or European/world title, having reached the finals in all of the above but coming up just short. When they won the Olympic title it almost released a monkey off their back (although in having talked to the team last year before the season ending Champions Cup in Calgary they never really felt a monkey was there to begin with). Now the #SwedishVikings can also call themselves grand slam champions and the momentum they have heading into the rest of the season is going to be tough to stop. We have seen it before with Niklas Edin running away with a season, can this be the season of the Swedish women?

And how about we elevate the Elite 10 #HERstory moment up another level? How about this year's final being only the 3rd time no Canadian team reached a grand slam final? With Sweden's Hasselborg taking on Switzerland's Tirinzoni, this marked the first all-European final since the 2015 Players' Championship when Scotland's Eve Muirhead defeated Russia's Anna Sidorova. The first all-European grand slam final also happened at The Players back in 2013 when Muirhead defeated Sweden's Margaretha Sigfridsson. Outside of these three occurrences, every women's slam final has seen at least one Canadian team on the ice. If you add it up that is 30/33 with a Canadian team in contention on Championship Sunday, a staggering 91% success rate for Canadian women teams.

Add these three #HERstory moments together and the inaugural women's #Elite10 competition truly was a historical event. But lets not overlook the men either this past weekend. We saw a few historic moments on the ice in men's events.

The biggest historical moment came in Tallinn, Estonia and truly supports the #growthesport movement. We have a new nation laying claim to a #wct title folks. Welcome Belarus! At the Tallinn International Belarus' Ilya Shalamitski survived a tight RR and then navigated the playoff bracket to become the first team, men or women, from Belarus to win a tour title. Some may argue the field was not as strong as many other tour events during the season but lets not take anything away from a developing curling nation claiming their inaugural title. Similar to Hasselborg winning her first slam, Belarus wins their first championship as well. And what a year Shalamitski is having, navigating the European C-division at the end of last season to promote Belarus into the European B-division at the upcoming European Championships this November (which take place in Tallinn as well). Worth noting, in the #TwineTime preview blog post Team Shalamitski was named as the perfect #TeamUpset contender of the week...and BOOM! a title for Belarus.

A few other noteworthy historical moments this weekend include Brad Gushue picking up his 11th #gsoc title, moving to 5th on the active player list for slam titles. One slam title ahead of him is teammate Mark Nichols, who picked up his 12th slam title with the Team Gushue win, moving him T3 on the active player list. Of course both still trail all-time slam winner leader Kevin Martin (18) and active player leader Glenn Howard (16). But they are making a move and, as of right now, are the current holders of 4 of the 7 slams having won the Tour Challenge, Masters and Champions Cup titles last season. From a #TwineTimeFam perspective, Matt Dunstone and Catlin Schneider picked up their first tour titles as teammates this weekend when the new Team Dunstone won the championship in Vernon. For Dunstone it is his 5th #wct title and first as skip since the 2017 US Open of Curling. For Schneider it is his 3rd #wct title and first since the 2015 HDF Insurance Shoot-Out.

We love seeing the history books being updated and finally scribing new #HERstory chapters on the World Curling Tour. We can only hope these trends continue with crowning some new champions, fostering an increase in the #growthesport movement and being part of historical moments on the ice.

As already mentioned, this was a full weekend of curling action with 5 women's events and 6 men's events on tour. Lets celebrate all of our winners with a quick #GunnerRunback as what went down across the house:

  • Discussed above, the #Elite10 crowned its first female champion with the #SwedishVikings Team Hasselborg defeating #HoppSchwiiz Team Tirinzoni in the final. Strong #TeamCanada reps Team Homan and Team Jones reached the SF. For the men, Team Gushue once again proved to be the cream of the crop rising above the competition to win the Elite 10 title defeating #TeamBFF Team Carruthers in the final. Team Epping and Team Jacobs completed the Final Four.
  • The #PrestigeCurlingClassic in Vernon was the debut #Tour1000 event for the women and saw another #TeamEurope winner when Russia's Team Kovaleva continued their hot start to the season picking up their 1st #wct title defeating Team Rocque in the final. Korea's Team Gim reached the SF and Team Gushulak gave the home province a team to rally behind with a SF finish as well. For the men, the new look Team Dunstone finally cracked open the W bottle of champagne knocking off Team Cotter for their first team title. Team Geall and #TeamUpset flag bearer of the weekend Team Klymchuk reached the SF.
  • In Edmonton, Team Kaufman had a great debut to their season winning the #AvonairCashSpiel over Team Steuber. Team Sherrer and Team Sturmay had strong SF runs. For the men, a Sturmay would emerge victorious as Karsten Sturmay and his boys would defeat Team Usselman for the championship. Team Kim and Team Sherrard would reach the SF.
  • In Winnipeg, the #KKPClassic saw Team Lott continue their winning streak with a championship W over Team Dennis Bohn, making it back-to-back weeks for the up and coming Manitoba foursome. Team Calvert and Team Smith completed the playoff picture with SF finishes. For the women, the #MCTClassic saw #TeamJCR Jennifer Clarke-Rouire win the title over Team McCreanor. Team Vachon and Team Ackland reached the SF.
  • As discussed above, the #TallinnInternational brought a curling championship to Belarus when Team Shalamitski, a #TwineTime #TeamUpset pick, defeated Finland's Team Rantamaki in the final. The Dutch boys Team van Dorp would finish 3rd over Finland's Team Makela. For the women, Switzerland's Team Hegner knocked off home nation favourite Team Molder to claim the title while Finland's Team Kauste claimed 3rd place over Hungary's Team Palancsa.
  • At the #CurlingStoreCashspiel in Lower Sackville, NS, Team Stuart Thompson threw down the gauntlet early proclaiming them to be a threat in Nova Scotia this season when they defeated Team Fitzner-Leblanc for the championship. Brother Team Kendal Thompson and Team Stevens rounded out the Final 4 playoff bracket.

What a way to close out September rock heads and stoners! Congratulations to ALL of our winners and teams who competed well last weekend, regardless of which event. It really was a full house of curling stones this weekend. And with 11 events overall, including a #Tour1000 and #SpecialEvent classification, you can best believe there are going to be some changes atop the rankings mountain this week.

Without further adieu, here are your Week 6 #PowerRankings:


WOMEN

  1. Team Kovaleva - 1300 (LW: HM)
  2. Team Einarson - 1010 (1)
  3. Team Tirinzoni - 930 (HM)
  4. Team Robertson - 805 (2)
  5. Team Rocque - 780 (NR)

Hon. Mention: Team Yoshimura, Team Hasselborg, Team Wrana, Team Scheidegger, Team Gushulak


MEN

  1. Team Epping - 1520 (LW: 1)
  2. Team Jacobs - 940 (3)
  3. Team Gushue - 750 (NR)
  4. Team Schwaller - 680 (2)
  5. Team Howard - 595 (HM)

Hon. Mention: Team Ulsrud, Team Dunstone, Team Lott, Team Carruthers, Team Paterson

As expected, the results from the Elite 10 and the #Tour1000 women's event in Vernon caused some shuffling along the mountain side this week. Most people may debate the women's #PowerRankings the most this week seeing a #gsoc champion only in the HM category while Team Kovaleva with one tour title is sitting at the top above Team Einarson, who have collected 3 #wct titles.

This is the perfect reminder of why the proposed #TwineTime tour system can create more parity among the rankings and reward smart scheduling and strong results. Team Kovaleva has played two tournaments this season, winning this past weekend and reaching the final in Edmonton a few weeks ago. Look at those events. This weekend was a #Tour1000 and Edmonton was a #Tour500. These are larger events with more ranking points and prize money on the line. They skipped the smaller #Tour250 events so far this season, decided to play bigger events and their results reward them for strong finishes. Team Einarson, on the other hand, elected to play 3 #Tour250 events and 1 #Tour500 event. Yes they won three of those events but 2 were #Tour250 events meaning less points awarded for the W. Collectively yes it can be argued Team Einarson is the stronger and more consistent team; however, Team Kovaleva is 2 for 2 in tournament championship appearances and claimed the bigger title thus far. Also remember tour events are classified based on total purse amount at the beginning of the season BEFORE teams declare their season schedule and the field of play is finalized. This is what parity is about and how teams can make smart, albeit sometimes risky, scheduling decisions. You decide your schedule based on the tour series classifications PRIOR to the season.

For the men, can we really debate the rankings that much? Epping has been the most consistent team this season thus far, supported by the SF finish this past weekend at the #gsoc. Jacobs also reached the SF to coincide his season-opening finals appearance at the #Tour1000 Shorty Jenkins (won by Epping remember). Yes Gushue took home the #gsoc title on Sunday but it was his first event of the season. This is what we want out of a rankings system. A team should not just make a season debut 6 weeks into the year, win an event and already be declared #1 in the world right? Plus look at the HM category. Team Lott has won back-to-back #Tour250 events and is rewarded with a Top 10 ranking. Team Dunstone has played 4 events this season, collected runner-up and QF appearances before finally taking home a title this past weekend. They also are rewarded for a busy schedule with a new Top 10 ranking. Some may still debate the high ranking of Switzerland's Team Schwaller but lets remember they have qualified in all 4 events entered, won a #Tour500 event, reached the QF at the only #Tour1000 and reached the QF at another #Tour500. Strong play and consistent results are rewarded under this system.

But what about the world champions? Hey you all know I love my #SwedishVikings and am a HUGE supporter of my boy #KingNiklas but the rankings are based on results and it has not been a strong start to the season for Team Edin, and they would admit the same. They have only played 2 tour events, reaching a #Tour500 final but failing to win a game at the #Elite10 cost them a shot at valuable points. Are we saying they are still not one of the Top 10 or Top 5 teams in the world? Of course not. We know they are. But the rankings cannot just be based on who we like or who has the strongest historic resume. Is Roger Federer considered one of the best tennis players in the world? Yes he is. Is he ranked #1 or #2 in the world right now? No he is not. Again, results and consistency win out. We want a system rewarding the Kovaleva's, Dunstone's and Lott's of the curling world for their strong results on the ice!

But teams climbing the mountain should double-check those carabiner's week in and week out because more events are taking place each weekend and one loose carabiner could cause a quick stumble down the mountain. Expect to see some more movement this weekend. We have 5 men's and women's tour events on tap, including 2 #Tour1000 events for both. If we thought there were a ton of points sitting on the mountain for teams to grab last weekend, it is going to be an all out sluggfest this weekend.

It is also Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada so be thankful for all the curling action. For the #TwineTime blog I am thankful for all of you loyal readers and followers. This past weekend we surpassed the milestone 120K page views. Next goal in sight: 150K!

#StayTuned for the full preview and predictions for all the action this upcoming long weekend.