Tuesday, 28 May 2019

2019 #GoldenGranite Award Winners

#BetweenTheSheets: Golden Granite Award Winners
The full list of who took home the big awards this season


With this season introducing many new #GoldenGranite Awards to centre ice, it made more sense to have one blog post just focused on the announcement of the winners and nominees.

ICYMI the introduction to this year's award ceremony, including a few highlights of this past blogging season, can be found HERE.

There will be 15 awards presented this season. The first award was presented in the introduction blog post: Social Team of the Year. The remaining 14 awards will be revealed here with a new category announced daily. Check back each day to see the next category nominees and winner.

Lets get to it.....

CATEGORY IS.....NATION OF THE YEAR

2017/18 Winner: New Award

The nominees are: Canada, China, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Canada

I promise this is not a homer pick. Hear me out on why and how the NEW #PowerRankings formula supports the inaugural Nation of the Year award winner. When you open the world championship season with a gold medal and finish with two more the odds are stacked in your favour to take home the #GoldenGranite Award. Canada had the perfect bookends to a strong international season, taking gold at the World Mixed Curling Championship (Team Anderson) at the beginning of the season and wrapping it up with the double gold #DefendTheIce at the World Senior Curling Championships (Team Anderson, Team Cochrane). The gold rush did not stop with the bookends though. The Canadian junior men (Team Tardi) added to the world champion Curling Canada resume when they took home another gold medal, also defending the ice. The 4 gold medals were matched by 3 silver medals: junior women (Team Sturmay) at the World Junior Curling Championships, World Men's Curling Championship (Team Koe) and the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship (Team Peterman/Gallant). Overall Canada competed in 9 world championships this season, reaching the final 7 times and claiming 4 world titles. Of course, on the flip side, Canada also made history being relegated at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship (Team Ideson) and failed to reach the playoff round at the World Women's Curling Championship (Team Carey) for the first time since 1999 and only the 3rd time in 41 world championship appearances. But when we add up all the results and points, Canada came out on top of the #PowerRankings mountain with a huge 4650 total. Sweden, the next closest nation, finished with 3365. They say you can never be perfect but the results Canadian champions put in on the ice this season comes very close. "Oh Canada" indeed!!



CATEGORY IS.....HIT OF THE YEAR

2017/18 Winner: 2018 Winter Olympics

The nominees are: International Growth, #SwedishVikings Dual Success, Team Germany #ECC2018 Playoff Spots, #TeamSkipper Silences Critics

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: International Growth


If you follow this blog you are not surprised with the winner here. #TwineTime has regularly pushed forward the #growthesport movement and this season we saw outstanding growth internationally. We should have known we were in for a special season when Spain reached the final of the World Mixed Curling Championship in October. While the Spaniards may have failed to win gold, winning a silver medal and landing on their first curling podium was still a huge success. What about Estonia and Latvia making their debuts at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship? Both nations finished 5-6, T7th, and earned their spot in next year's world championship while forcing curling power nations Canada and USA into relegation. On the junior ice, New Zealand's men won the junior B-division, their first gold medal, and earned promotion to the World Junior Curling Championship, another first. And once they got there they turned some international heads by finishing in 6th place with a 4-5 record, securing their spot in the 2020 world junior field. We cannot forget to mention the historic season for Korea's Min-ji Kim team either. While Korea has successfully transitioned from "also-ran" to international "contender", Team Kim turned some heads winning the #PACC title, winning a Curling World Cup leg, winning silver at the World University Games and winning Korea's first medal at the Women's World Curling Championships (bronze). And they are a junior team still folks! And of course we have to talk about the record field at the season-ending World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. 48 nations entered the competition this year, the most EVER! And we saw international debuts from 5 member associations: Kosovo, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine. Nigeria even secured their first-ever WCF victory, defeating France in their final RR game. Other historic first wins came from Greece (def. Kosovo) and Qatar (def. Saudi Arabia). As we know the mixed doubles championship field will be reduced next season to only 20 nations, a move earning nomination in the Miss of the Year category. We can only hope those member association making their international debuts during the 2018/19 season continue to grow and build towards future success. We want curling to be a top international sport. To do so we need to see growth around the world, on all continents and within all major sporting regions. We don't know what the future holds but for this moment in time we celebrate the historic achievements from many "non-traditional" curling nations this season and continue to slide forward the #growthesport ideology.



CATEGORY IS.....MISS OF THE YEAR

2017/18 Winner: #FormatFrustrations

The nominees are: Canada #WWCC2019 Struggles, Curling World Cup, Wheelchair Curling Canada Relegation, World Mixed Doubles Field Slashed

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Wheelchair Curling Canada Relegation


13 world championship appearances. 3 world championship wins. 1 world championship silver. 1 world championship bronze. A Top 5 finish in 8 of the past 12 world championships. A finish of no lower than 7th in those 13 world appearances. Not to mention the 3 Paralympic gold medals and 1 Paralympic bronze. When anyone talks about wheelchair curling success the first nation you think of is Canada. They have owned the podium throughout the history of the discipline. Until 2019! Wheelchair Canada was part of history once again this season but it was the wrong side of the history ledger. For the first time a Canadian team was relegated in the sport. Canada finished the #WWhCC2019 with a 5-6 record. Now one game under .500 is not total cause for concern considering the record actually placed them tied for 7th. Unfortunately due to the TB procedure, which included losses to fellow 5-6 nations (and debut nations to boot) Estonia and Latvia, Canada found themselves on the wrong side of the cut line and are now relegated to the 2019 Wheelchair B-division Championship. This is a historic slide on the wrong sheet of ice for a historic program. From a #growthesport perspective, great to see new nations excel and succeed on world championship ice. Internationally, for the discipline, this may not be considered a miss at all. For Canadian curling fans, this was the shocker and miss of the season. There is something about seeing Canada highlighted in red near the bottom of the standings that seems surprising. It really is the unknown and unexpected. Canada will now compete this November for a chance to earn promotion back into the A-division for the 2020 World Wheelchair Curling Championships. For Canadian fans we can take some solace in knowing fellow America's nation, and chief sports rival, USA will be joining the Canucks at the B-division championship. But also let that sink in. BOTH America's curling powerhouse nations were relegated this year. Who saw that coming folks?



CATEGORY IS.....TEAM OF THE YEAR - MALE

2017/18 Winner: Team Edin

The nominees are: Team Bottcher, Team Edin, Team Epping, Team Koe, Team Mouat

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Bottcher


We have a bit of a surprise winner here folks. The win by Team Bottcher, again based on the new #PowerRankings formula to decide this award, mirrors the old Tortoise and the Hare story we read as kids. Slow and steady truly can win the race. Team Bottcher took a different approach to the season. They didn't play their first event of the year until Week 7 at Stu Sells Toronto, reaching the SF. They won their first event of the season the next week at Canad Inns and then played their first #gsoc of the season at the Tour Challenge Tier I, losing in the final. But once the 2019 calendar rolled around, the Bottcher Express hit the tracks at full steam ahead. They won the Canadian Open and followed it up with two more #gsoc wins at the Players' Championship and Champions Cup. Sandwich in between those results was the Brier runner-up performance, after having to survive the wildcard play-in game against fellow TOY nominee Team Epping. The Alberta boys built momentum slowly through the season and it payed off in the last quarter with huge results and championship wins. Many may not have expected to see Team Bottcher atop the mountain as last team standing but the ride to #1 sure was a fun way to end the season. And as their award-winning social media hashtag states, these boys will look to be #StillRollin into next season.



CATEGORY IS.....TEAM OF THE YEAR - FEMALE

2017/18 Winner: Team Hasselborg

The nominees are: Team Einarson, Team Hasselborg, Team Homan, Team Kovaleva, Team Tirinzoni

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Homan


No surprise here. This is how you silence the doubters after a disappointing Olympics the prior season folks. Team Homan topped the inaugural #PowerRankings this season and this award automatically goes to the team sitting atop the mountain at the end of the season. The results easily support the #GoldenGranite Award win. 3 #gsoc titles: Tour Challenge Tier I, National, Canadian Open. Another #gsoc final appearance at The Masters. A runner-up finish at the Scotties. Plus SF showings at the Elite X, Canada Cup and Champions Cup. Add it all together and this team reached the SF or better in 9 of 10 events played this season, with the only miss being failing to reach the playoffs at the Players' Championship (lost a TB). Those slam results clinched a second Pinty's Cup title this season (first being 2015/16). Add in the Curling World Cup leg one victory as cherry on top of the sundae and crown this team with the #1 ranking and Team of the Year award for the 2018/19 curling season. Not to mention special congrats to skipper Rachel Homan and second Joanne Courtney on becoming mothers during the off-season. What. A. Season.



CATEGORY IS.....TEAM OF THE YEAR - MIXED DOUBLES

2017/18 Winner: New Award

The nominees are: Anna Hasselborg / Oskar Eriksson, Jocelyn Peterman / Brett Gallant, Kristin Skaslien / Magnus Nedregotten, Laura Walker / Kirk Muyres, Sarah Anderson / Korey Dropkin

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Kristin Skaslien / Magnus Nedregotten


How to be successful in mixed doubles in 2019? The couple that curls together, wins together. We saw this with our #TeamUpset of the Year award winners. We see it with two of the nominees in this award. And we see it with our #GoldenGranite Team of Year winners: Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten. The Norwegian duo followed up their 2018 Winter Olympic bronze medal with a stellar mixed doubles season. The couple won the Curling World Cup leg 2 in Omaha, NE defeating past world champions Jenny Perret/Martin Rios in the final. They took home the season ending CWC Grand Final title, knocking off 2018 Canadian champs (and fellow nominees) Laura Walker/Kirk Muyres in the final. They also were busy competitors on the mixed doubles tour scene. A tour title in Saskatoon. A runner-up appearance in Estonia. And final four showings in Poland and Switzerland. The world championships were a disappointment, finishing 9th, but the result does not derail nor defy a season of success. And don't forget Skaslien was a Curling World Cup leg 3 runner-up with Thomas Ulsrud and finished 4th at the opening leg with Sander Rolvag. You will be hard pressed to find a more successful mixed doubles athlete this season than Skaslien! This was a close category as all 5 nominees had stand-out moments throughout the MD season but Skaslien/Nedregotten put together the total package results all season and earned this award.



CATEGORY IS.....TEAM OF THE YEAR - WHEELCHAIR

2017/18 Winner: New Award

The nominees are: Team Cha (South Korea), Team Neilson (Scotland), Team Rozkova (Latvia), Team Villiste (Estonia), Team Wang (China)

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Wang (China)


March 2018 to March 2019 may be considered the single best 12 month period in the athletic career of Wang Haitao. The 29-year old skip of Team China finally broke through and made history. Last year he led China to their first Paralympic gold medal. This year he continued to show the world he is the face of wheelchair curling winning his first world championship. Wang has come oh so close in the past, winning silver in 2015 and bronze in 2012 and 2013. 2019 was his season and after taking China to the top of the wheelchair curling mountain in 2018 he was able to retain top spot this year. The sport of wheelchair curling is growing, as shown by the outstanding results of debut nations (and #GoldenGranite nominees) from Estonia and Latvia. But China currently sits as defending Paralympic champion and world champion. The next Paralympic Games happen to be in China and Wang Haitao seems primed to become the present and future of the discipline around the globe and right now all he does is win, win, win! Could we be seeing the start of a new dynasty in wheelchair curling?



CATEGORY IS.....#TEAMUPSET OF THE YEAR - NATION

2017/18 Winner: New Award

The nominees are: Denmark, Estonia, New Zealand, Spain

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Estonia


The Baltic nation of Estonia is not known to be a sporting powerhouse nation. Located in Northern Europe with a population of just over 1.3 million, ranking 151st overall, many do not expect to see Estonia as a threat. But the tides may be turning off the Baltic Sea....or the rock may be spinning the right way on the curling sheet. Estonia experienced a standout season with some unexpected results. Estonia competed in 8 international events, including 3 world championships (Mixed, Wheelchair, Mixed Doubles). The biggest breakthrough came in the discipline of wheelchair curling where the Estonian team (skipped by Viljar Villiste) won the world B-division title, earning promotion to the world championship where they would finish a respectable T7th, including knocking off perennial powerhouse Canada (forcing them into relegation) and eventual world champion (and current Olympic champion) China. The result also secured them a spot in next year's field. Not bad for a debut! The mixed doubles duo of Marie Turmann and Harri Lill made great strides at the world championship as well, winning their group with a 6-1 record and reaching the QF. This also earned Estonia direct qualification into next year's newly formatted world championship. The women's national team (skipped by Turmann) won silver at the Euro B-division to earn promotion to the Euro A-division for next year as well. Noticing a trend here with strong results and promotion into the elite competitions next season. There was also off the ice success with Tallinn, Estonia hosting the 2018 European Curling Championships. Having attended the event the venue was outstanding and the host committee and volunteers were amazing. Sure the attendance numbers could have been higher but curling is a developing sport in Estonia and we need to start somewhere. Both Turmann and Lill were faces of the championships, marketing the event leading up to and during. And while both competed in the B-division, both represented the home nation well, including Turmann reaching the B-final. With the #PACC nations experiencing growth and success, we have been waiting for similar progress out of Europe. Estonia took great strides to #growthesport domestically and become a curling name internationally. Hopefully the trend continues to go up next season.



CATEGORY IS.....UNDERACHIEVER OF THE YEAR - NATION

2017/18 Winner: New Award

The nominees are: Italy, Netherlands, Norway, USA

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: USA


Of all the new categories for deliberation, this may be the toughest one to declare a "winner". How do you qualify what makes an underachieving season from a nation perspective? One of the main qualifications used by this blog is looking at how many world championship events a nation qualified for and what the placement was in those events. Did the nation reach the podium multiple times? Did they only qualify for a few championship events? It is tough to level the field. There are 9 world championship events played across men, women, junior, mixed doubles, mixed and wheelchair. When we look at the US resume, it does come out a little underwhelming. The US has an automatic qualification in all 9 of these events, unlike their Euro or #PACC counterparts who have to qualify. The America's region is only starting to build now and while the US may have to compete in a Challenger Event to earn men's and women's world championship spots, the competition level is not the same compared to other regions. So USA earns a basic auto-berth into 9 world championships each season. Of those 9, the American's only landed on the podium once. And that came at the end of the season when the mixed doubles duo of Cory Christensen and John Shuster won a bronze medal. The results prior to the bronze however were less than stellar. Both junior teams failed to reach the playoffs, with the junior women just avoiding relegation. The wheelchair team didn't avoid the R-word though, finishing 11th. The mixed team finished 6th in the pool, resulting in a T21 overall. And the women failed to make the playoffs after a 6-6 RR record. While the men reached the playoffs they were quickly eliminated in their opening playoff game, a similar fate to the senior teams reaching the playoffs and going home in the QF round. This is not a case of overhyped expectation with USA Curling anymore either folks. The Americans are expected to be contenders at world championship events. They have experienced great growth in the sport across all disciplines and have seen steady increase in results. This was a backwards-stepping season on the results page, especially after the Olympic gold last year. When you earn a spot in every major world championship and come away with only one podium, a small collection of QF losses and a majority of playoff misses (plus a relegation), it equates to an underachieving season and earns you this inaugural #GoldenGranite Award.



CATEGORY IS.....#TEAMUPSET OF THE YEAR - MIXED DOUBLES

2017/18 Winner: New Award

The nominees are: Anastasia Moskaleva/Alexander Eremin, Daniela Rupp / Kevin Wunderlin, Kadriana Sahaidak / Colton Lott, Marie Turmann / Harri Lill

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Kadriana Sahaidak / Colton Lott


Quick raise your hand if you were familiar with Kadriana Sahaidak and Colton Lott as a duo before this season? Ok a few hands up given their runner-up finish last season at the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. Now raise your hand if you expected them to contend as one of the top mixed doubles teams in the world this season? I am seeing far less hands in the air. Hence why they emerge as the #GoldenGranite winners for this new category. Mixed doubles is tricky. You never know what you are going to get with a team each season. The results can fit the theme of the game itself: #NoLeadIsSafe. While some teams compete at the highest level one season and succeed, it is not uncommon to see them falter the next year or even disband. Not the on-ice/off-ice coupling of Sahaidak/Lott. They won the Curling World Cup leg 3 event in Jonkoping, Sweden knocking off some strong competition like previous world champions Jenny Perret/Martin Rios and Kristin Skaslien/Thomas Ulsrud in the final. But this win was not a one and done type of result for the young Manitoba duo. They had a runner-up finish at the MD event in Portage earlier in the season. And, at the Curling World Cup Grand Final, they wound up with a 4th place finish dropping their first 2 games and reeling off 4 straight wins to just miss the championship final. Their winning streak included defeating Perret/Rios once again and eventual champions Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten. Oh and as for the follow-up to the "surprise" silver medal at nationals last year? They reached the Final Four again this season and took home a bronze medal. Not bad for a team under the age of 23! Welcome to the #NextGen of mixed doubles folks.



CATEGORY IS.....#TEAMUPSET OF THE YEAR - FEMALE

2017/18 Winner: Team Sinclair

The nominees are: Team M. Kim (52 -> 18), Team Kovaleva (New - > 5), Team Silvernagle (35 -> 12), Team Stern (44 -> 13)

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Min-ji Kim


This was perhaps the toughest category to crown a winner. Team Kim, still a junior team, surprised many early in the season capturing the #PACC title. What made the win even more surprising was this was the first real event of the season we saw them compete at (outside the opening leg of the Curling World Cup where they finished 1-5). After the #PACC win we saw them play 4 #wct events, qualifying each time. They reached the final of the second leg of the Curling World Cup and won the third leg, qualifying them for the Grand Final. They represented Korea at three major international competitions. At the World Junior Curling Championships, the team finished 6-3 and just missed the playoffs due to TB procedure. At the 2019 Winter Universiade, again a 6-3 record but this time they reached the final losing to Sweden. And finally at the World Women's Curling Championship, Team Kim placed Korea on the world podium for the first time winning a bronze medal after a 9-3 RR record. And, again, remember this is still a junior team folks! #TeamUpset this year but Watch Out next year.



CATEGORY IS.....UNDERACHIEVER TEAM OF THE YEAR - MALE

2017/18 Winner: Team Morris

The nominees are: Team Carruthers, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Pfister, Team S. Kim

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Reid Carruthers


Lets just be real and honest shall we rock heads. Heading into this season there may not have been as much excitement and anticipation to see a new men's team on the ice as the new-look Team Carruthers. The joining of forces between powerhouse Manitoba contenders Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers was billed as the match made in heaven. #TeamBFF was listed as a pre-season favourite to do big things on tour, at the slams and even an early Brier favourite. The BFF train left the station with momentum but puttered out as the season progressed. The runner-up showing at the season-opening Elite X and the title win at Stu Sells Toronto looked like this team would live up to the pre-season hype. But then they failed to qualify in their next three events. They went 0-for at the Canada Cup. They struggled to pick up wins at the remaining slam events. Outside of the two #wct titles they picked up early 2019 in Japan and USA (against smaller and less experienced fields), it really was not a stellar season for the Manitoba boys. The two 2019 titles really kept this team even in the #gsoc picture as their slam winning percentage on the season was one of the lowest given they received an invite to every slam. But the icing on the cake here could be the story everyone is selling. New team. New dynamics. Building phase. Get to know one another phase. Colour it however you want, it comes across as excuses for underachieving. This is NOT a new team. They added one player. A skip. A successful skip. This is not a new team like Team Dunstone or Team Einarson, both of which had stellar rookie campaigns. You injected one new member and a player you were very familiar with. On paper this should have been one of the top teams on tour. Excuses and stories aside, the results were not there and in many instances there just seemed to be too many cooks in the kitchen. All sous chefs and no head chef does a good meal not make. Potential to come back stronger next season, sure...if they stick it out. But lets call a duck a duck here and just admit it was an underachieving season for McCarruthers.



CATEGORY IS.....#TEAMUPSET OF THE YEAR - MALE

2017/18 Winner: TIE - Team Mouat AND Team Shuster

The nominees are: Team Dunstone (New/26 -> 11), Team McDonald (New/29 -> 15), Team Paterson (New/20 -> 6), Team Schwaller (25 -> 17)

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Scott McDonald

After 4 unsuccessful attempts to win the Ontario Tankard in the past, playing on numerous different teams, Scott McDonald finally achieved the dream this season. The newly formed Team McDonald won the Ontario Tankard, going undefeated along the way knocking off perennial contenders Team Epping and Team Howard among others, to book their debut spot in the Brier. The Ontario champs would just miss out on the playoff round but did reach the Championship Pool and captured the hearts of many curling fans along the way. They were the true #TeamUpset of the week. The Brier experience may have turned this team into household names but if you followed the #wct this season, you should have been prepared for their breakout. They played 7 tour events this season, qualifying each time. They won the title in Gatineau. They had a successful #gsoc season as well, reaching the Tour Challenge Tier II final and qualifying for two #gsoc majors: The Boost National and Canadian Open. This blog constantly reinforces a theme of consistency, consistency, consistency and Team McDonald were the poster child team this season of playing a full tour schedule to start the season, coupled with strong results, a tour title and ultimately playing their way into the grand slam field. Congratulations Team McDonald on a great season, capped off with a Golden Granite Award!



CATEGORY IS.....UNDERACHIEVER TEAM OF THE YEAR - FEMALE

2017/18 Winner: Team Flaxey

The nominees are: Team Arsenault, Team Christensen, Team Flaxey, Team Sinclair

And the #GoldenGranite goes to: Team Jamie Sinclair

From Surprise Team of the Year last season to Underachiever Team of the Year this season. What a wild 12 months it has been. After reaching the Final Four at the world championship and winning their first slam last season (Players' Championship), USA's Jamie Sinclair entered this season with a ton of momentum and high expectations. Unfortunately the momentum forgot to carry over once the season started. The team did reach the QF in their second event of the season (Shorty Jenkins) but unfortunately they would not qualify for the playoffs at another event until the Curl Mesabi SF finish at the beginning of December. In between were 5 events played and 5 events with an early exit. Overall, out of 10 #wct events entered they only qualified in those previously mentioned two. Now they did win the US Championships and, similar to last year, finished 6-6 at the world championships. Unfortunately, unlike last year, a .500 record would not land you in the playoffs this time. The season ended with a TB loss at the Champions Cup and an overall record of 37-40. Now fair enough the team did have a 50% change at line-up heading into the season, adding the Anderson twins. But this add was actually expected to make the team stronger. The results just did not follow. It was an underachieving year for a team who started the season full of potential and confidence. On the plus, Sinclair was the inaugural winner of this award back in 2016 and the results improved over the next two seasons, ultimately becoming a #gsoc champion. Perhaps this award will serve as a kickstarter once again?

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