Analysis

Canadian curlers endure roller-coaster of emotions throughout Olympic journey

It's hard to know where to begin when you start dissecting what happened to Canada's curlers at the Olympics. It was disappointing no doubt, but there are bigger-picture things at play in this moment that should be talked about and focused on.

Canada comes away from Beijing Games with solitary bronze medal via Gushue rink

Canada's skip Brad Gushue, centre-right, hugs third Mark Nicholas as second Brett Gallant, left, and Geoff Walker, right, look on after defeating the United States on Friday to win bronze at the Beijing Olympics. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

It's hard to know where to begin when you start dissecting what happened to Canada's curlers at the Olympics.

It was disappointing no doubt — and that disappointment will be mulled over for the next four years until the next wave of Canadian curlers shoulder the lofty weight of the Maple Leaf at the Games.

Curling Canada is going to have to face some serious considerations about when the Olympic trials are held and how Canadian curlers are prepared for the Games.

But there are bigger-picture things at play in this moment that should be talked about and focused on.

WATCH | Gushue's Canadian rink defeats U.S. to capture Olympic bronze:

Extended Highlights: Canada's Gushue claims men's curling bronze with win over U.S.

8 months ago
Duration 15:05
Canada's Brad Gushue beats American 8-5 John Shuster in the men's curling bronze medal game at Beijing 2022 for his second Olympic medal.

And maybe for the first time in Canadian Olympic curling history there's a wholehearted acknowledgement that winning at the top international competitions is hard — so hard that it will break even the most stoic and composed curlers Canada has.

Take for instance what Rachel Homan posted on Twitter this week in the wake of her and John Morris missing the mixed doubles playoffs — by a few millimetres no less — speaking of how gutted she was with the loss.

"I'm in the deepest of black holes wishing we could have found another centimetre for Canada," Homan wrote. "I'm cheering hard for every athlete in Beijing right now but personally struggling beyond words."

Then there was Jennifer Jones, who admitted she wished she could have redone about eight shots during the week, having missed the playoffs in a tie-breaking scenario that came down to the cumulative last stone draws.

Jones and her team stayed inside the Ice Cube as the final games in the last women's curling draw ended, hoping and wishing one of the teams they needed to win would pull off a victory to get Jones into the playoffs.

It never happened, and the sadness and disappointment could be seen all over the faces of the Canadian curlers.

WATCH | Canada's Jones fails to advance to women's playoff despite win:

Jones beats Denmark but Canadian women's curling team fails to advance to semifinals

8 months ago
Duration 13:56
Despite Jennifer Jones' 10-4 victory over Denmark's Madeleine Dupont, Canada's women's curling will not move on to the semifinals at Beijing 2022.

But then Jones showed a moment of grace and poise in the moments after learning her fate. As she made her way through the reporters, a camera captured Jones hugging the Japanese curlers, congratulating them and wishing them well on their remaining games.

The 47-year-old was able to check what she called devastation after missing the playoffs, sharing a moment with Japan's curlers they will never forget.

While there was that beautiful moment, Jones was no doubt equally as gutted as Homan about underperforming.

"I did call my kids after and I said that I was sorry," Jones said on That Curling Show, wiping tears away. "Because I really wanted to have a medal to go home and show their class and their friends."

WATCH | Jones reflects on roller coaster Beijing Games with That Curling Show:

Jennifer Jones shares an emotional message for Canada

8 months ago
Duration 54:21
Jennifer Jones shares her emotions after a roller coaster of a night and not making the playoffs, why it was important for her to hug Team Japan, what she’s taking away from the Olympics and what she might be up to next.

Jones spent more than 30 minutes on That Curling Show talking about her experience at her second Olympics — so very different from her first time around.

In 2014, Jones didn't lose a single game to capture Olympic glory.

But she was reflective in the aftermath of this experience, saying the team soaked up every moment and tried to make the best of it.

Jones also talked about having a different perspective of what defines success, and that it's really hard to win at the Olympics now. And that there are so many lessons to be learned from losses.

"Thank you, Canada. Thank you everyone who had our backs. Everyone always needs a pick up once in a while. Eternally grateful for your kindness," she said, thanking Canadians.

"Thank you for riding the roller-coaster with us and we're sorry we couldn't ride it a little longer."

Gushue's rink rallies to win bronze

And finally there was Brad Gushue. The 41-year-old skip from St. John's and one of the greatest skips to play the game wanted to win gold so badly for his family and his country.

In what he calls the toughest game he's ever played in his career, Gushe, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker grinded through a bronze medal battle with the Americans.

It certainly wasn't the colour of the medal Gushue wanted. Not at all. That was apparent by his breaking down after the semifinal loss to Sweden.

WATCH | Gushue describes emotional run to bronze on That Curling Show:

Winning bronze means just as much as winning gold for Brad Gushue

8 months ago
Duration 30:08
Team Canada skip Brad Gushue talks about the emotions of losing the semifinal and then curling for bronze a few hours later, how rewarding it is to still walk away with a medal after a tough week and what’s next for his team as they get set for the Brier.

Gushue had narrowly missed his last shot to win, came off the ice and made his way to the media area.

There's a virtual screen there set up for the curlers to interact with their families. Gushue had been somewhat composed until he saw his family.

"I know much they sacrifice and how they've wanted me to be successful and have done everything they could to allow me that opportunity," he said on That Curling Show. "When we lost, I was fairly composed and I came around the corner and it smacked me in the face."

Gushue buckled to the ground, his hands clasping his face. But that emotional outpouring was just a prelude to what unfolded at the end of the bronze medal win.

WATCH | That Curling Show discusses Curling Canada's Olympic trial process:

Are Canadian curlers being set up for success at the Olympics?

8 months ago
Duration 16:00
Joanne Courtney, Bruce Rainnie, and Mike Harris join the show and unpack all the emotions after the women's team was eliminated and the men's team was forced to play for bronze. They also debate Canada's trials process and whether Curling Canada sets up its Olympic athletes for success.

After the final rocks had come to a stop, and the teams congratulated each other, Nichols made his way over to Gushue.

Imagine the journey they've been on together from their junior days, winning Olympic gold 16 years ago, Brier wins, Slam wins, and devastating losses.

And then all those years later finishing out a bronze medal game at the Olympics.

Nichols broke down, wrapping his arms around Gushue. And the two of them just stood there for what seemed like a lifetime.

"You're the best ever," Nichols said to Gushue.

These Olympics for the Canadian curlers was an emotional thriller that took them to places none of them could have prepared for.

But more than anything through their vulnerability, raw emotion and fully sharing themselves in such a public way, they've created space for those who follow in their path.

Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe's teams faced a wrath of hate and vitriol and condemnation that was painfully difficult to face for every one of those curlers. And should have never happened.

Four years later, the reaction has been less hate-filled. Because anyone who follows the game knows the rest of the world is great at curling.

And Canada is great at curling too.

"We all wanted it real bad. No quit. We weren't at our best, but good enough," Gushue said.

WATCH | Canada's mixed doubles duo Homan, Morris eliminated in extra end:

Italy eliminates Canada's Homan and Morris in extra end

8 months ago
Duration 13:06
Canadian mixed doubles curling duo Rachel Homan and John Morris' hopes of an Olympic title defence came to a sudden halt on Monday in Beijing with an 8-7 extra end loss to Italy's Stefania Constantini and Amos Mosaner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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