Canadian curlers endure roller-coaster of emotions throughout Olympic journey
Canada comes away from Beijing Games with solitary bronze medal via Gushue rink
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:
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.
Being completely honest because I know many athletes have felt this but I’m in the deepest of black holes wishing we could have found another centimetre for Canada.<br><br>Know that I’m cheering hard for every athlete in Beijing right now but personally struggling beyond words.—@RHoman89
"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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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: