The Brad Jacobs rink started the year by winning its first Tim Hortons Brier and ended 2013 by qualifying for the Sochi Games.
It was a breakout effort that signalled the team was no flash in the pan. Jacobs and his teammates are young, powerful and appear ready for a long run at the top.
Their emergence as one of the country’s top rinks was one of the top Canadian curling stories in 2013.
“We want to be known as one of the best teams ever and I think that’s what drives us,” said Ryan Fry, who plays third on the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.-based team.
Jennifer Jones will join them in Sochi after locking up the women’s spot with a victory over Sherry Middaugh at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings in her hometown of Winnipeg.
An Olympic win is the one prize that has eluded Jones over her illustrious career. The 39-year-old has won four national titles and reached the world championship podium twice — taking gold in 2008 and bronze in 2010.
Rachel Homan’s rink out of Ottawa also enjoyed a strong season. She beat Jones in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final and then took bronze at the world championship in Riga, Latvia.
Homan dropped an 8-7 decision to Scotland’s Eve Muirhead in the semifinal. Muirhead then beat Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson for the gold.
Homan struggled at times during the Olympic trials before settling for third place. Her team still made big strides in 2013 and is expected to be a force on the women’s side for years to come.
It’s an interesting time on the men’s scene with top skips like Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton still playing at a high level as they enter the twilight of their careers.
Jacobs topped all three veterans en route to a perfect 8-0 record at the Olympic trials. His team of Fry and brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden defeated John Morris 7-4 in the championship game.
“Brad Jacobs might be the hottest curler in the world,” said Russ Howard, a two-time world champion and curling broadcaster. “They were very impressive. To go through the Olympic trials 8-0, that’s a pretty tough bonspiel.”
Jacobs added a silver medal in his first appearance at the world championship, dropping an 8-6 decision to Sweden’s Niklas Edin. Fry said the team learned a lot about preparation and focus from that event.
“We spent a lot of time reading press clippings,” he said. “We didn’t do the right things to prepare ourselves for worlds. We went into it on a high and when the carpet came out from under us, we really had to refocus to be able to even pull it back to get to the final.”
Fry added that their international experience and strong results against tough competition have them feeling confident ahead of Sochi.
Morris was at the centre of a big off-season story as he left the Martin rink last spring after seven seasons. Morris felt the team had run its course after an impressive run that included a world title, two Brier victories and Olympic gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Dave Nedohin replaced him on the Martin rink while Morris later teamed up with Jim Cotter. Morris handled skip duties while throwing third stones and did well to guide the team to the final of the Trials.
Jacobs and Jones will both be playing at the Winter Games for the first time. The Olympic curling competition begins Feb. 10 at the Ice Cube Curling Center.
The 2014 Scotties will be held Feb. 1-9 in Montreal and the Brier is set for March 1-9 in Kamloops, B.C.
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