Brad Jacobs confessed he didn’t know that since the Olympics accepted curling as a medal sport in 1998, no Canadian team has ever come home without at least a bronze.
But shortly after he won the right to wear the Maple Leaf at the Olympic trials in Winnipeg in December, he also said he didn’t really care.
“We’re going there to try to win gold for Canada and that’s it,” said the confident young skip.
After a perfect 8-0 record in the round robin at the trials, where he bested the likes of Olympic gold-medal winner Kevin Martin, a little confidence seems not unreasonable.
Without casting aspersions on past representatives, the Jacobs rink even looks like it could hold its own in the muscle department with a lot of other athletes they’ll be marching with into the Olympic stadium in Sochi.
They’re young, take working out very seriously and have shot to the top of the men’s curling scene in Canada in a pretty fierce arc that has proved Northern Ontario really can turn out curlers who succeed on the national level.
Alternate Matt Dumontelle even failed a test for steroids following the gold-medal game at the world championship in Victoria last year, in which the Jacobs rink came second.
Certainly not a high point for the team — it resulted in a two-year suspension so he misses the Olympics — but a curler failing a doping test raised more than a few eyebrows.
Hailing from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Jacobs became the first skip last year from Northern Ontario to win a Brier since 1985. Prior to that, his best finishes were a bronze at the 2010 Brier and a provincial junior championship.
The addition of curling carpetbagger Ryan Fry at third for the 2012-13 season seemed to tip the scales for the Jacobs rink from contender to winner. Fry, the son of Manitoba curling legend Barry Fry, has skipped his own rinks and also played third for both Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton and Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue.
In a sport where grey hair isn’t that uncommon, at 35 Fry is the old man on the team, with Jacobs at 28, lead Ryan Harnden at 27 and brother E.J. Harnden at 30.
They love the hitting game and are very good at it. But they also outplayed veteran strategists like Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard at the Olympic trials to win their berth.
They may be young and fairly new at the national and international level but their experience at the world championships will help at the Olympics, says Jacobs.
“We know what to expect from all the other countries and I think that that experience at the world’s is really going to help us out at the Olympics. It’s basically all the same teams.”
Knowing them and beating them are two different things, however. In recent years, Canada has faced many tough teams from northern Europe, although with 34 men’s world championships to Sweden’s second-place six, no one can argue Canada’s overall dominance.
But the Olympics will give Jacobs another chance to face Sweden’s Niklas Edin, the 28-year-old skip who defeated him for the 2013 world championship. Edin also remains very much a favourite in Sochi. The former world junior champion has Olympic experience as well already, after leading Sweden to a fourth-place finish at the Vancouver games.
But Jacobs is taking it all as a sign and he says getting through the Olympic trials was probably the toughest thing he’s had to do in curling.
“It’s weird,” said Jacobs. “It’s almost like it was all meant to be, a silver medal last year at the worlds and now were going to the Olympics and playing them all again.”