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Karuizawa Curling 2012: Don't Stop Believing

Words and images by Laura Crocker

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Don't Stop Believin'!

Don’t Stop Believin’!

KARUIZAWA, Japan – The tournament has come to a close and everyone on Team Canada is coming home with a medal!

We started our day yesterday with the semifinal against China, who came out strong right from the start. We gave up steals in the second and third ends to go down 2-0 playing the fourth. That end was looking good for us when two uncharacteristic misses by skip Bingyu Wang left us with a shot to lie four. Another missed shot by Wang led to a huge steal of four and put us up 8-2 at the break.

However, the game was far from over. A well-played end by the Chinese paired with a bad end by us led to a three-count for China and put them within three points of our score. They continued to play strong and we weren’t quite at our best, and we ended up playing the 10th end up one with the hammer. We held on, and scored our single for the win... and we were off to the final!

The gold medal game was a rematch of our first loss of the tournament against a strong Swiss team. Before we started, a group of young Japanese cheerleaders, anywhere from about age five to 10 years old, came out and did a routine to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ on the backboards! It was absolutely adorable... and such a fun way to start the championship game.

We played pretty well right from the start, but we were having a tough time holding them to single points... and as a result, we found ourselves tied without the hammer playing the ninth end. I was a bit heavy on a freeze with my last rock, leaving her a double for three... and the Swiss were now up three coming home.

Best dressed? Of course!

Best dressed? Of course!

We were pretty discouraged, but we stepped up and put everything we had into the last end, throwing guards in great places so that their double peels were extremely difficult. A great come-around on our third’s last stone was followed by an attempt by Silvana Tirinzoni to chip it out, which ended up a little wide and missed the stone entirely. Another come-around on my first of two final throws (absolutely pounded by my sweepers – thanks girls!) left her a similar shot, a small piece of the rock exposed that she tried to chip out. She just touched it, without removing it, and left us with a draw to the rings for our third and tying point... and we were off to an extra-end!

We played a great 11th-end but by this point the ice was getting really tricky. It was tough to play the right weight on draws, as all the paths were quite different. In the end we left her a draw to pretty much cover the pin, but she had a bit of backing... but her stone hit a slower path at the end and stopped a bit short, and suddenly, we were gold medallists.

Two crazy playoff games for certain, but we hung in there as a team, persevered, and never gave up. And we won!

The boys lost a tough one in their final – down one with in the 10th end and they found themselves with a shot to win. Unfortunately it was a bit heavy and they were sent to an extra-end, where the lead from the Japan Selection team made two perfect "tick" shots. They made every peel from there and the Canadian men never really had a chance; just another example of how leads can win you games! It was a close match that could have gone either way, and we’re all so proud of their silver medal finish.

Drumming with Bingyu Wang

Drumming with Bingyu Wang

The finals were followed by the awards ceremony, and hearing our national anthem while standing on top of the podium was the sweetest song I have ever heard. The medals are absolutely beautiful, featuring a small emblem of the Olympic rings on the front. And such a nice colour, too!

Once we finished up at the rink it was time for the banquet, and I must say Team Canada just might have won the best-dressed award! The closing night was a ton of fun – they had a Japanese drum show, which was incredible and so interesting to watch. When they finished their numbers they passed out a bunch of hand drums, and we all joined in…but I don’t think any of us should quit our day jobs!

This morning we had a last breakfast at our hotel, struggled to pack everything – you should see all of the gifts we have received throughout the week – and were off to the train station. We were sad to leave Karuizawa, the people there were so nice and welcoming and they made our experience absolutely amazing. Thank you to the town of Karuizawa, and all those involved in putting on such an incredible championship... we were so impressed and we couldn't be happier to have been a part of this event.

Sayonara Japan!

Sayōnara Japan!

After saying goodbye to our hotel and our wonderful interpreters, we're now on the incredibly fast (and incredibly clean) bullet train, and I’m looking out the window at a gorgeous view of the mountains. This view is definitely one of the things I’ll miss the most about Japan.

The boys are heading home quickly as some of them are representing Newfoundland and Labrador at the Canadian Juniors this coming weekend, but us girls are off to Tokyo for a few days! We have lots of fun touristy things planned, and the Canadian Ambassador has invited us to the embassy for lunch. We’re looking forward to leaving our curling shoes in our bags for a while, and experiencing more of Japan.

I would like to close this final blogpost with a huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting us, both in the lead up to Karuizawa and throughout the event itself. The Japanese people, first of all, who came to watch on a daily basis – never without some kind of gift for us – were so much fun and we loved having them as Canadian fans. 軽井沢ありがとう! あなたの日本に感謝!

Also, some of our parents were here with us and the rest were awake in the middle of the night at home, watching online streams. We’ve had so many kind messages of encouragement and congratulations from our friends and family, and even strangers who were behind us the whole way. We are incredibly thankful and couldn’t have done any of this without the support of so many of you.

Arigato – thank you – and for one last time, Sayōnara!