St. Albert's Marc Kennedy got an unexpected opportunity to play against the Americans in an Olympic curling game Saturday.
“It felt great to get in there and throw a few rocks! This has been an amazing journey with these guys, and the opportunity to step out on the Olympic ice and throw a few rocks was a real privilege,” said Kennedy in an email to The Gazette from Beijing.
After losing back-to-back games in Beijing against Switzerland and Sweden, Team Gushue — the Canadian team Kennedy is an alternate on — made a big comeback, winning 10-5 against the reigning Olympic champs, Team Shuster. The comfortable lead against the U.S. team meant Kennedy had a chance to play.
"It gave [the team] an opportunity to get me in the game as well as give one of their front enders [in this case Brett] a little bit of a break. It is a long, gruelling week of sweeping, and any chance they have to get some rest, they will take it," he said.
Both the Canadian and American teams made substitutions at the midway point. Kennedy subbed for Brett Gallant, while the Americans put in Colin Hufman for John Landsteiner.
“The U.S.A. win was a big one. We were coming off two tough losses against great teams, and to beat the defending champions was a big boost,” said Kennedy, who joined the team as alternate in December.
As of Tuesday, Team Gushue was in third place but dropped to 5-3. The team lost in an extra-end match 7-6 against the Russian Olympic Committee in what CBC reported skip Brad Gushue called a "disappointing game." If the team had won against ROC, they would have secured their spot in the semifinals.
Canada has one final game in the round-robin. The team must win against Great Britain on Wednesday evening to secure their spot in the semifinals. Only the top four teams at the end of the round robin will advance.
Kennedy said everyone felt great after the win against Team Shuster but said the Canadian men's Olympic team faced some major challenges.
“There are no easy games. However, the guys are improving every game, and their attention to detail and support of one another will hopefully result in a podium finish,” said Kennedy about the team’s progress after the team's win against the Americans on Saturday.
One of the biggest challenges for the team is to manage the stress and expectations, said Kennedy.
“They have done a great job at that so far,” he said.
Kennedy said the team’s greatest strength is their collective experience and learning from their past successes.
“They have been in every imaginable curling situation and know how to handle them all. This will serve them well the rest of the week,” he said.
As for curling conditions, Kennedy said the ice and the rocks have been terrific up to this point.
“They did some rock maintenance last night to make sure that there is lots of curl for the rest of the week, which will result in some great curling,” he said in his Sunday night email.
Kennedy said the team has been in contact with their families on a daily basis and it has been nice for them to keep in contact to feel their love and support.
“This team definitely has a ton of support across Canada, and they can certainly feel the love,” he said.
Kennedy said Beijing has been great — they have settled into the village, and everyone is comfortable.
“Overall, it has been a great game for the athletes. We even got some snow yesterday, which made it feel like a Winter Games!”
The team is set to play against Great Britain on Feb. 16, at 6:05 p.m. The men’s semifinals are set to take place on Feb. 17, while the gold medal game will be held on Feb. 19.