#BetweenTheSheets: Punching Final Tickets to Beijing
Plus #Trials2021 Parting Rocks
There was A LOT going on. Here are a few parting rocks.
#Trials2021 Parting Rocks
🥌 Congratulations to Team Gushue and Team Jones on winning the Olympic trials. Gushue looked dominant all week while Jones turned back the clock, pulled from her previous experience and got on a roll at the right time. Both have been there before. Both already have Olympic gold medals at home. Both will look to add to their impressive curling resumes. Best of luck to our NEW #TeamCanada reps in Beijing.
🥌 Shout out to Team Fleury on an outstanding week of curling. Yes they lost the big game at the end of the week but they should still hold their head's high after truly being the class of the field all week. They entered the final undefeated, not an easy task against this quality of field. While they may be disappointed to come so close, they are still the top team in Canada and should be early Scotties favs. Manitoba certainly opened up a bit with the Team Jones win.
🥌 Props to Team Jacobs on reaching the final. The Battle of the Brad's / Battle of the Mark(c)'s went to #TheRock but both teams made tremendous shots in the final. Similar to Fleury, Jacobs may be disappointed at the outcome, coming so close to a return Olympic trip, but they will be strong favs for the Brier this season.
🥌 Speaking of Northern Ontario, #FearTheMoose was a theme in Saskatoon. Tracy Fleury is originally from the region. Jacobs reached the men's final. Team McCarville survived the TB bracket and ended up with a bronze medal finish. Many may have been focusing on Manitoba teams being the story of the event but Northern Ontario certainly produced strong results. Imagine a Scotties final, in Thunder Bay, between Tracy Fleury and Krista McCarville?!? The Scotties final we never knew we needed but will be glad to see it. And always props to Team McCarville for rocking those #PrideBrooms from Hardline all week. A small gesture can send a loud message! Representation matters!!
🥌 Should Curling Canada start looking at a format change? You have to feel for Fleury, going undefeated in the RR only to lose one game and there goes the Olympics. Fleury was 8-0 heading into the final. Jones finished the RR 5-3. 3 games ahead of the field is a pretty clear statement. Perhaps there needs to be a slight rule change where a first place undefeated team needs to be beaten twice. Fleury ended the event with an 8-1 record while Jones was 7-3. The "beat them twice" rule would not have applied to the men as all the teams suffered at least 1 loss. But should a team go undefeated in the RR, maybe the simple bye to the final in a winner takes all game isn't enough? At least not with an Olympic ticket on the line.
🥌 The Million Dollar Team may have been disappointed with their 3-5 finish but they did not disappoint the home province crowd. Look we all know the adversity Team Dunstone faced right before the start of this event. It was tough. And it shook the team at the beginning as well. But the crowd was behind them. Each draw they played, the crowd was electric with anticipation of wanting to erupt out of the seats for every good shot Team Dunstone made. And the boys competed. And, by the end of the week, they competed with smiles on their faces. Colton Lott played outstanding, arguably a 1st or 2nd Team All-Star for the week at vice. Tough start. Resilient and strong finish. Hopefully the team can take more of the end week positives out of the event than the pre-event distractions. And we will all wait and see if the story continues to develop.
🥌 HUGE props to the Event Staff and Security at SaskTel Centre. Look folks, COVID is still a real thing. It is still claiming lives. It is still making many people sick. I would lie if I said I was not slightly nervous about attending a large curling event all week. I knew protocols would be in place but you never know what people will be like, even with having to show vaccination records to enter the arena. The Event Staff and Security personnel were great. They walked up and down the stairs of each section throughout the draws, every day, and kindly reminded people to put their masks on. Even if just sitting in your seat, you still need to be masked. And, to my surprise, I rarely saw anyone object or get upset with the reminder. Also, getting a drink or something to eat on the concourse? Once purchased, no lingering! The Event Staff/Security would remind you no consumption on the concourse level. You need to eat and/or drink only in a seat. I was even reminded of this at one point...and I am ok with that. They were doing their job and helping to ensure as safe as an environment as possible. I didn't envy their position as you never know how people will react. Luckily, at least from what I saw, the reactions were positive. Maybe there is some hope for all of us?
🥌 NEW PODCAST EPISODE - ICYMI @scottieschicken and I sat down to discuss the opening weekend action in Saskatoon. While we now know the end results, take a listen and see if either of us ended up being correct on our analysis and predictions. Plus, Dee is a #SuperFan of the sport and has been to MANY events. Can you guess how many before she shares in the episode? It is always great to hear from fans at events. Thank You Dee for your willingness to be part of the podcast and joining the #TwineTimeFam.
What a time was had in Saskatoon. For those who were able to attend in person, hopefully you enjoyed yourself. For those who watched on TV, you were treated to some great action as well...but you missed out on some in-arena fun as well.
If you have not been to a curling event live, hopefully you are able to do so in the near future (which remaining safe of course).
So we know our #TeamCanada men's and women's reps in Beijing but what about the rest of the field at the 2022 Winter Olympics?
Here are the nations already qualified:
MEN: China, Canada, Great Britain, ROC, Sweden, Switzerland, USA
WOMEN: China, Canada, Denmark, ROC, Sweden, Switzerland, USA
MIXED DOUBLES: China, Canada, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland
The #TeamCanada MD rep will be decided at the Mixed Doubles Trials in Portage la Prairie, MB from January 3 - 9, 2022.
Those remaining tickets to Beijing will be punched at the Olympic Qualification Event, taking place from December 5 - 18, 2021 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
2021 will mark the first time mixed doubles has been featured in the Olympic Qualification Event.
And Leeuwarden is making history as being the first city in the Netherlands to host an international curling event.
Lets slide out of the hack with a FULL preview for ALL THREE disciplines.
Take note, the mixed doubles competition runs Dec. 5 - 9 while the men's and women's competition will run Dec. 11 - 18.
Olympic Qualification Event 2021
Group A - Australia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, ROC, Spain, Turkey
Group B - Estonia, Finland, Japan, Korea, Latvia, New Zealand, USA
Format: 14 team RR with 2 groups of 7. Top 3 in each group qualify for the playoffs.
Any time you see the name Anna Sidorova in the field, take notice. Sidorova makes her return to international ice, partnering with Alexey Timofeev, in an attempt to make the Olympic field.
Sidorova is no stranger to Olympic ice either. She competed at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics as part of the Russian women's team. We last saw Sidorova representing Russia at the 2018 women's worlds, where she won bronze.
Timofeev is no stranger to wearing the Russian colours at international events. He is a three-time European and World championship competitor, the last being at the 2019 Euro's.
Individually they have strong resumes with experience. Put them together and they are the most experienced duo in the field.
Plus, they would love to reclaim status to the Russian Curling Federation after what happened at the 2018 Winter Olympics in mixed doubles.
No nation is on a larger trajectory for the future than Turkey. So why stop now?
Dilsat Yildiz just skipped Turkey to a Top 7 finish at the European Curling Championships, earning the nation their first trip to the World Women's Curling Championship in 2022.
Ugurcan Karagoz just skipped the men's team to a Euro B-division gold medal, earning promotion to Euro A-division in 2022.
And remember this duo earned their ticket into this field by claiming one of the three final spots at the 2021 Pre-Olympic Qualification Event.
But do not settle this duo short either. They have tremendous mixed doubles experience. They competed at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships every year from 2016 - 2019. At their last world championship, they ended up just missing the playoffs with a strong 5-2 record.
Turkey may not be considered a contending curling nation yet but watch out. Imagine the story if they pull the upset here and reach the Olympics?
This is a strong group of 7 with heavy international mixed doubles experience.
Hungary is led by two-time world champions Dorottya Palancsa and Zsolt Kiss.
Australia's duo of Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt were 4th at the 2019 world championship.
Germany's Pia-Lisa Scholl and Klaudius Harsch just missed the playoffs at the 2021 world championship.
Spain's Oihane Unanue/Mikel Unanue have competed at the past two world championships.
And, all 4 of these teams were actually in the same group at the recent 2021 world championships so they are very familiar with one another.
At those world championships, Germany went 3-0. Early advantage for the Germans?
Australia was 2-1, Hungary was 1-2 and Spain was 0-3.
Add ROC into the mix and this could be the Group of Death. Lots of experience. Only 3 playoff spots.
Projected Standings: 1. ROC 2. Australia 3. Hungary 4. Germany 5. Turkey 6. Denmark 7. Spain
If anyone in the field is riding a wave of momentum, it might just be USA's Chris Plys. Plys just punched his ticket to Beijing in the men's competition when Team Shuster won the USA Olympic Trials.
Plys has lost in the trials final before and was an alternate at the 2010 Winter Olympics but now he will make his first official athlete appearance in 2022.
Can he make it a double/double though?
Plys and partner Vicky Persinger won a very competitive USA mixed doubles trials to earn their spot in this field. Half the work is done. Now time to finish the job.
This team may not have the mixed doubles international experienced compared to some others in their group but they still have very successful curling resumes with their respective men's and women's teams.
Everyone wants the Olympic ticket. But the fire burning inside Plys might be stronger than most.
Can a player who competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in this very discipline be considered #TeamUpset? It just might be the case here.
Finland will be lead by the sister/brother tandem of Oona Kauste/Aku Kauste.
Oona Kauste competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics alongside Tomi Rantamaki, where they would finish 1-6. Kauste and Rantamaki also competed at 3 world championships. So we know Oona has experience.
She joined forces with brother Aku for the 2021 world championships, finishing 2-7 and ultimately were relegated.
Can they turn it around in this last chance qualifier?
Both have tremendous experience. Oona won bronze at the 2015 Euro's as skip of the Finnish women's team. Aku finished 4th at those same European championships. And, together, they won bronze at the 2012 European mixed championship.
But we have not seen them compete as often together on mixed ice, perhaps a slight assist to COVID of course. Familiar names. International experience. Dark horse playoff contender?
Group B is a Group of Opportunity. There are strong teams throughout the group. Unlike Group A though, this group feels more wide open for a surprise playoff contender.
South Korea and Japan will be strong. Estonia has a ton of world championship experience.
Those 3 nations, coupled with #Fav USA and #TeamUpset Finland, are fairly evenly matched. An argument could be made for any of them to finish atop the standings. An argument could be made for any of them to finish outside the Top 3 and miss the playoffs.
This group will come down to the final RR games to decide the standings and who keeps those Olympic dreams burning.
The question is, which teams handle the pressure better than their opposition?
Projected Standings: 1. USA 2. South Korea 3. Estonia 4. Japan 5. Finland 6. New Zealand 7. Latvia
Playoff Qualifiers: ROC, USA, Australia, South Korea, Hungary, Estonia
Qualification Semifinals: Hungary (Dorottya Palancsa/Zsolt Kiss) def. South Korea (Kim Min-ji/Lee Ki-jeong), Australia (Tahli Gill/Dean Hewitt) def. Estonia (Marie Kaldvee/Harri Lill)
Qualification Finals: ROC (Anna Sidorova/Alexey Timofeev) def. Hungary (Palancsa/Kiss), USA (Vicky Persinger/Chris Plys) def. Australia (Gill/Hewitt)
2022 Winter Olympic Qualifiers: ROC (Sidorova/Timofeev), USA (Persinger/Plys)
Nations Competing: Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, Norway
Format: 9 team RR. 1st place earns auto berth to 2022 Winter Olympics. 2nd vs 3rd in first qualification game. 4th vs L 2/3 in final qualification game.
Can Italy actually be considered a #Fav at a curling event?
You better believe it!
Joel Retornaz and his Italian side are on a momentum wave right now. They come to this event fresh off a bronze medal win at the 2021 Euro's and look to have their sights set on Beijing.
Look at what Retornaz has done over the past few seasons. 2018 Euro bronze. 2019 Euro 5th place. 2021 Euro bronze. 2018 world's 8th place. 2019 world's 7th. 2021 world's 7th.
He has been on the cusp of breaking into the top echelon of the sport for a few years, coming one win away from playoffs at those world championships. In 2021, one more win might have earned him a playoff spot and avoiding competing at this very event.
But Retornaz continues to fight and is being rewarded for it. Remember he is a two-time Olympian as well, skipping the Italian men's team at the 2006 and 2018 Winter Olympics.
One of the most liked guys on tour, if there are curling gods watching over events, Retornaz should be touched by an angel here and earn another Olympic ticket.
What happens when you play with nothing to lose and everything to gain? All you do is win, win, win, no matter what.
Czech Republic's Team Klima has to be feeling that way right now. From Euro B-division in 2019 to A-division in 2021 and earning their spot in the 2022 A-division, Klima and the boys are re-establishing Czech Republic on the curling map.
Similar to the 2021 Euro's, the team could arrive here with a 'flying under the radar' mentality. Will they be the favourite in the field? Hardly. Czech Republic is ranked #16 in the world rankings and they enter as the #8 seed, only ahead of Finland.
Remember they qualified for this field through the pre-qualification event in October so have they have been fighting all season for this moment.
Can they knock off those ranked above them and make a push for the playoffs? 100%. Look what they did at those 2021 European Curling Championships, which only wrapped up a few weeks ago.
They finished 4-5, one game out of a possibly playoff spot, and booked a ticket to the world championships for their nation.
Not to mention they also defeated Norway, Netherlands and Finland, whom they will compete against here. Of course they also suffered losses to Italy, Denmark and Germany, again familiar foes at this event.
5 wins probably keeps you around the playoff bubble. Can they secure enough wins early to stay around later?
This may feel like a mini-European championship. Italy, Norway, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Finland all just competed against one another at the 2021 Euro's.
But don't assume a Euro sweep because they have the numbers advantage.
Japan (Team Matsumura) have been competing at #GSOC and tour events.
South Korea (Team C. Kim) is fresh off a 2021 #PACC title last month.
This RR is going to be very intense as any team truly can defeat any other team in this field.
And remember the added importance of the final RR standings.
1st place earns an automatic spot in the Olympic field. No playoff games or playoff wins needed.
The 2nd and 3rd place teams earn the double opportunity. They play off for the second Olympic ticket while the loser still has a second chance against the 4th place team.
This is not JUST about making the playoffs but also where can you finish to bolster your odds of claiming one of the three tickets to Beijing.
Projected Standings: 1. Japan 2. Italy 3. Norway 4. South Korea 5. Czech Republic 6. Germany 7. Netherlands 8. Denmark 9. Finland
Playoff Qualifiers: Japan, Italy, Norway, South Korea
1st Place Ticket to 2022 Winter Olympics: Japan (Team Matsumura)
Qualification Game #1 (2nd vs. 3rd): Italy (Team Retornaz) def. Norway (Team Walstad)
Qualification Game #2 (2/3 L vs. 4th): Norway (Team Walstad) def. South Korea (Team C. Kim)
2022 Winter Olympic Qualifiers: Japan, Italy, Norway
Nations Competing: Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Scotland, Turkey
Format: 9 team RR. 1st place earns auto berth to 2022 Winter Olympics. 2nd vs 3rd in first qualification game. 4th vs L 2/3 in final qualification game.
They survived the litmus test before this big event. Scotland's Eve Muirhead will arrive here as current European champion.
Now can she make up for the lost opportunity inside the #IceBubble at last year's world championship and clinch an Olympic spot for #TeamGB?
She is riding the momentum now and perhaps re-establishing a bit of confidence. Muirhead has been playing great all season to be honest. But with the mixing up of teams and players bouncing around in an attempt to find the perfect team for this very event, it was always a bit of an unknown.
Would the final team gel in time? Will they all come together with confidence and know one another as teammates on the ice enough to find success?
So far, so good.
Muirhead is the most decorated athlete in the field too of course. World champion. 3-time Euro champion. Olympic bronze medal winner. 3-time Olympian.
Based on experience alone, Team GB should be on their way to the 2022 Winter Olympics.
It was mentioned in the MD preview section, it will be mentioned here again.
Watch out for Turkey!
Turkey may be seeded #9 in this field as the nation is the lowest ranked at #18 but momentum and confidence perhaps would earn them a higher seed.
Dilsat Yildiz is on a tear this season. She qualified for this event in MD and women's team through the pre-qualification event.
She led her team at the 2021 Euro's, finishing in 7th place with a 3-6 record and earning the nation a spot at women's world.
Similar to Euro's, the team will be the underdog in this field. But do they mind? Based on results already this season, doubtful.
The first 4 draws will determine where this team is going at this event. They open with Estonia followed by South Korea, GB and Latvia. If they can sit at least 2-2 from those 4 games, watch out.
They may make a surprise playoff push here.
Unlike the other two disciplines being contested in Leeuwarden, the women's field could come down to The Big 4 vs. The Field.
Muirhead is coming off a Euro title.
Germany's Team Jentsch won bronze at the 2021 Euro's.
Two of the Euro podium finishers are competing here.
South Korea's Team E. Kim are the defending Olympic silver medal winners.
Japan's Team Fujisawa won bronze at the 2018 Olympics.
Two of the 2018 Winter Olympic podium finishers are competing here.
And there are only 3 tickets to Beijing up for grabs. At least one of those four teams is missing out for sure.
Now what about The Field?
Italy and Turkey are coming off huge high's competing at the 2021 Euro's as well.
Czech Republic's Team Kubeskova has been here before...twice!
They just missed the playoffs in 2017, on home ice, with a 3-3 RR record. In 2013, again they finished one game out of a playoff spot with a 2-4 record.
We talked about the curling gods blessing Italy's Retornaz, perhaps they owe a little good fortune to Czech's Kubeskova too.
But can any of The Field nations (Italy, Turkey, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia) crack into the Top 4 to compete for a spot in the Olympic field?
Wonder what the CoolBet wager would be? The Big 4 vs. The Field? I might lean towards The Big 4.
Projected Standings: 1. Great Britain 2. Japan 3. South Korea 4. Germany 5. Italy 6. Turkey 7. Czech Republic 8. Latvia 9. Estonia
Playoff Qualifiers: Japan, Great Britain, Korea, Germany
1st Place Ticket to 2022 Winter Olympics: Great Britain (Team Muirhead)
Qualification Game #1 (2nd vs. 3rd): Japan (Team Fujisawa) def. South Korea (Team E. Kim)
Qualification Game #2 (2/3 L vs. 4th): Germany (Team Jentsch) def. South Korea (Team E. Kim)
2022 Winter Olympic Qualifiers: Great Britain, Japan, Germany
There you have it rock heads. What do you think? What are YOUR predictions and who do YOU think with punch those final tickets to Beijing and qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympic field?
Unfortunately the event will be played without fans in attendance, which is never easy for the players, organizers or anyone really. But alas, it is what it is and we move forward.
World Curling TV will be providing streaming coverage of the event, through all 3 disciplines, via The Curling Channel in partnership with Recast.
The FULL streaming broadcast schedule, including links to the stream, can be found HERE.
The blog will return in the new year with a preview of the Canadian Mixed Doubles Olympic Trials.
Until then, enjoy the Olympic Qualification Event and to those competing, good luck and good curling!
And to all of you, from fans to athletes to everyone in between, THANK YOU for sticking with the #TwineTime blog over all these years. 8 years and counting, including surviving (still surviving) a pandemic.
There are MANY options available for your curling coverage. I appreciate every one of you who continue to include this blog as one of your go-to curling content creators.
The blog may not be the best but I will always strive to bring you content different from the rest.
I wish each of you a Happy Holidays!!
And, December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We celebrate the rights and well-beings of persons with disabilities throughout society. Today I cherish my relationship with my brother and am proud of the person he has become.