The Norwegian curlers have their kaleidoscope pants, but the Brad Jacobs team out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., is fiery, fit and ready to show it at the Winter Games.
Expect to see an intense Canadian men’s curling team in form-fitting clothes when they step on the ice to open the Olympic curling competition Monday.
“We’re going to be bringing everything we’ve got to every single game and the emotion that pours out of us sometimes, we can’t control it,” the skip says. “You can see that on the ice when a big shot is made and we all explode together.
“The Norwegians are famous for their pants and bring a lot of colour to the game. Our team is known for the tight shirts and tight uniforms more than the colourful pants.”
The Canadian men open against Germany’s John Jahr and Switzerland’s Sven Michel at the Ice Cube Curling Centre on Monday.
The Jennifer Jones team out of Winnipeg takes on China’s Bingyu Wang, the 2010 bronze medallist, to kick off the women’s round-robin Monday.
Jacobs, third Ryan Fry and brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden on the front end are riding a rocket that launched when curling nomad Fry joined the team a year and a half ago following stints with the Brad Gushue and Jeff Stoughton teams.
“Nomad is a compliment right?” said Winnipeg-born Fry. “When we formed this team 16 months ago now, we knew we had something special right off the hop.
“For me, I felt like I fit in right away. It just kind of escalated to the point where we couldn’t be more ecstatic about it.”
The foursome won the 2013 Tim Horton’s Brier for their first Canadian title for all four of them. They finished second at their first world championship, falling to Sweden’s Niklas Edin in the final.
Jacobs defeated heavyweights Stoughton, Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin en route to a perfect 8-0 record at December’s trials.
“Whatever wave we’re on right now, we’re going to ride it until this thing crashes,” says Jacobs, 28. “We have some momentum right now, our team.”
Self-described gym rats, Jacobs says he and his teammates are in the gym anywhere from three to six days a week. Curling requires fitness and stamina over a long tournament, but not necessarily bulging muscles.
Fry, who also operates as the team manager, explained at least year’s Brier that being buff makes them marketable.
Jacobs has a tough act to follow in Sochi.
Since curling made its Olympic debut in 1998, Canada has made every men’s final. Gushue’s team out of St. John’s, N.L., won the first gold in 2006. Edmonton’s Martin followed up by beating Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud for gold in 2010.
Canadians have the same expectations of their curlers as they do their hockey players at the Olympics, which is gold or bust.
“The gold medal that Kevin Martin’s team got and the way that team was rolling for that two, three, four-year period was just unbelievable,” Jacobs says.
“That’s definitely something we’re trying to emulate. We want to be a dominant team like that. The pressure is on a little bit. But all that pressure kind of goes away once you step on the ice as a curler.”
And as in hockey, countries have different curling styles.
“It’s figuring out how other countries play and figuring out how to combat their style of play,” Jacobs says. “I think right now with the way we’re playing, other countries should be trying to figure out how to beat us.”
Fry is the oldest on the team at 35. E.J. Harnden is 30 and Ryan is 27. Jacobs and the Harndens are cousins.
“We were crawling around together as babies,” Jacobs said. “They’re like brothers to me and now Fry is as well.”
Because Stoughton, Howard and Martin have dominated Canadian men’s curling for so many years, Jacobs and company seem like young upstarts although they’ve been curling competitively for years.
The spotlight on them has definitely grown hotter since the trials.
At the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, Canadian women’s skip Shannon Kleibrink said her phone didn’t stop ringing between winning the trials and stepping on the ice in Pinerolo.
“The phone and the e-mail is blowing up all the time,” Jacobs agreed. “A couple of times it did feel overwhelming, but I don’t think anyone has blown as gasket so far.
“Everyone’s been pretty calm. We were told to expect the unexpected and basically let things roll off your shoulders.”
The Ice Cube, which is situated in the Coastal Cluster by the Black Sea, seats 3,000 and is portable. According to the Sochi website, it can be moved to other cities and used as a curling venue.
“I’ve never seen something that bright before,” Jacobs said. “Definitely a different-looking curling rink.
“I think when we all walked in there, it felt like a good place to win a gold medal. The dressing room is a little tight, but we’re going to make it our own.
“We’re going to be pumping the house music as usual in there and having a good time and hopefully making a lot of shots.”
It’s been a bronze and two silver medals in women’s curling for Canada since Sandra Schmirler’s team won gold in 1998. Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen will be tested immediately by China’s Wang.
Jones defeated Wang to win in the women’s world championship final in 2008, but Wang made history the following year by winning her country’s first world curling title with a victory over Sweden.
The Chinese women are coached by Marcel Rocque, who won three men’s world titles playing lead for Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey.
Two-time Olympic silver medallist Mirjam Ott of Switzerland and reigning world champion Eve Muirhead of Britain are also in the field.
“It is the most amazing field and I believe the strongest field ever to be assembled at the Games,” Jones said. “You have so many world champions, European champions. It’s going to be tough from start to finish.
“We’re going to have to play our very best to be on the podium, but that’s our goal and what we’ve been working so hard for over the past number of years.”